Proposing fresh standards around average speed checks, variable speed limits and ‘smoother’ driving on motorways, the health body outlined a series of recommendations for road governance.
By lowering the level of harmful emissions from vehicles on England’s road network alone, NICE hopes the motoring world can play its part in reducing the 25,000 deaths that occur each year with air pollution cited as a contributing factor.
As much as 64% of air pollution in urban areas is caused by traffic on the roads. Its impact is thought to cost the UK in upwards of £19 billion each year in health bills.
Welcoming several of the proposals, RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes reminded all drivers that there is a role for each individual to play, by considering their driving style to reduce emissions, and saving money in the process.
As a key measure proposed in the guidance, “no-idling” zones would be installed around England's schools to prevent parents leaving their cars running during drop-offs and pick-ups.
Another big contributor to unnecessary fumes being released into the environment is accelerating or decelerating too rapidly – leading to inefficient driving and fuel consumption.
By encouraging businesses and transport services towards a ‘smoother’ approach to driving – including avoiding hard accelerations – NICE believes simple steps in the right direction can be achieved.
Professor Paul Lincoln, chief executive of UK health forum and NICE guideline committee chair, says: “The guidance sets out a strategic range of evidence based practical measures to encourage low or zero emissions transport. This is very timely given the imperative to meet EU and national air quality standards.”
While acknowledging the guidance is still in draft stage and in need of further work and consideration, RAC spokesperson Mr Lyes said: “There is a lot in NICE’s guidelines that is worthy of serious consideration when it comes to tackling air quality.
“No idling zones, and the suggestion that local authorities should think again about speed humps which cause motorists to brake and then accelerate again, are eminently sensible suggestions and both have the potential to improve the quality of air locally. Empowering town and city planners to consider air quality when it comes to the location and new developments and infrastructure is also critical.
"Clean Air Zones will play their part in focusing on the most polluting vehicles, however the implications restricting certain vehicles from local areas needs to be carefully thought through. Other suggestions such as higher parking charges and more restrictions are also unlikely to reduce congestion and improve air quality – this could just push the problem elsewhere.
“NICE also acknowledges the importance of improving the flow of traffic – since air quality is often at its worst where congestion appears, a point that the RAC has made on a number of occasions.
“Recent research for the RAC Report on Motoring indicated that motorists want to see tougher action being taken to reduce air pollution in their local area. More than a third (34%) said they have concerns about air quality near where they live, while four in 10 drivers (41%) said that they are more concerned about vehicle emissions now than 12 months ago.”