It does not matter if you are sitting in the car enjoying the air-conditioner while waiting for friends to return - you could still be handed a fine.
From June, repeat offenders who leave the engines of their stationary vehicles switched on will face higher penalties, the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday.
Motorists caught leaving their vehicle engines idling for a second or subsequent time will face a fine of $100, up from the current $70. If the sum is not paid, the errant motorist will be liable to a maximum court fine of $5,000.
The move comes after an increase in such offences. NEA figures show that from 2013 to last year, the number of enforcement cases grew from about 3,200 to 5,100. In the first three months of this year, action was taken against 1,489 errant motorists for idling-engine offences.
The NEA said the surge is due to increased enforcement and a rise in offenders - many of whom drive commercial vehicles such as taxis, goods vehicles and private buses.
Engine on? You could be fined...
•When you are resting in your vehicle during breaks.
•When you are waiting for your children at school, even if your vehicle is inside the school compound.
•When you are loading or unloading goods from your vehicle at non-designated areas.
•Vehicles, such as chiller trucks or concrete mixers, which require their engines to be switched on because of on-board machinery.
•Taxis and buses in a queue at designated stops, stands or terminals to pick up or drop off passengers.
•Law enforcement or emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or police vehicles.
„•Vehicles undergoing inspection or maintenance.
The Straits Times spoke to 50 motorists yesterday and only around half were aware that it is illegal to leave an engine idling. Two out of five owned up to having done so.
While three out of five welcomed higher fines, saying they would benefit the environment and act as a deterrent, others such as pilot Santosh Menon, 46, said better public education is needed for the move to work.
"Parents waiting for children after school, drivers loading and unloading at non-designated areas - these are all people who need to be convinced to change this habit," said Mr Menon.
Mr Tan Jun Wei, 22, who is doing his national service, said the move could lead to other problems, such as motorists driving around the block instead of waiting, leading to greater emissions.
Under the Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations, it is an offence to leave the engine of a motor vehicle running while it is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions. The NEA works with vehicle inspection centres and fleet operators, among others, to raise awareness on idling engines.
But there are exceptions to the regulation, such as taxis and buses queueing at designated stops, stands or terminals to pick up or drop off passengers.
For example, motorists who drop off passengers at designated points at MRT stations will be exempted. They are discouraged from leaving their engines idling while picking up passengers.
The NEA said its officers "exercise discretion" before deciding on enforcement action. "The increased penalty aims to reduce the incidence of idling-engine offences and helps to further minimise air pollution."
Many drivers here leave their engines running to keep the air-con on and beat the heat.
Nanyang Technological University Associate Professor Richard David Webster, an environmental chemistry expert, said: "A car will use less fuel when it is stationary, but the fuel used is completely wasted. So it is sensible to turn the engine off."
Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution, emitting gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particles such as PM2.5. They also give out carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming.
Scientist Erik Velasco from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology said of the heftier fines: "It is a good regulation and an important one. It is going to reduce emissions and personal exposure to toxic pollutants."
•Additional reporting by Malavika Menon, Delphine Kao and Royanne Ng