As well as the queues of traffic entering school grounds each morning, there’s also the mid-afternoon tussle for a parking space at pick up time.
While parents, teachers, bus drivers and school staff are focused on getting students in and out safely, there’s a silent threat to the health and wellbeing of school-aged children across Australia and New Zealand.
In some places, transport emissions are so bad that experts compare it to smoking cigarettes.
A 2017 study conducted by Melbourne University’s Energy Institute found that 1,715 deaths in Australia each year are directly linked to transport emissions.
A later study found this number was too conservative, claiming it could be as high as 3000 people and the results of a PhD project in December 2019 cites 4880 deaths annually.
This number is TRIPLE the road accident toll in Australia, a topic that (rightly) attracts millions of dollars for public awareness and education campaigns.
Australia and New Zealand are relatively lucky when it comes to air quality.
However, if you’ve ever seen or experienced air pollution in countries such as China or India, you can probably begin to understand why the World Health Organisation estimates over 7 million people die each year from causes directly linked to poor air quality, to which transport emissions are a major contributor.
The very old, very young, people who are already unwell or who are recovering from major illness are all affected by poor air quality. Causes of death may range from asthma, lung and heart disease, bronchitis and respiratory problems.
Additionally, air pollution has been linked to a reduction in human intelligence and cognitive functions.
It’s not just the influx of buses and large SUVs into school grounds that cause a spike in poor air quality around schools in the mornings and afternoons.
Here in Australia, and also in New Zealand, we have a problem with idling vehicles.
Visit any school car park at 3pm on a school day and we guarantee you’ll see a number of parents in vehicles with their engines running - sometimes for 30 minutes or more - while waiting for their children.
Parents are busy watching their child safely cross the road, making sure they're not carrying too muh weight in their school bag and providing them with a nutritious lunch. But they're unaware of a massive threat to their child’s health.
Using a simple website-based resource and downloadable sheets, students aged from Year 8 upwards can design their own project, based on time and resource limitations.
We’ll be rolling out this project in March 2020 and are looking for interested schools and student groups to help us test it.
If you’d like to get involved with Idle Off, please get in touch with the project founder and EVUp director Emma Sutcliffe.