MOTORISTS waiting in traffic queues are being encouraged to switch off their engines in a bid to improve air quality.

The move, in Malton and neighbouring Norton in North Yorkshire, will see street signs erectred urging druivers to switch off to cut down on nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Levels of the gas, which can lead to respiratory problems, are higher than usual in parts of the centre of Malton, in common with many other locations which suffer from heavy traffic flows.

"The major problem arises when traffic gets backed up at the Butcher Corner junction by the level crossing gates being closed," said the county council;s executive member for highways, Counc Gareth Dadd.

"Traffic can be queueing for several minutes, and often drivers don’t think to turn off their engines.

“We hope that by placing signs at strategic points, we will encourage drivers to save fuel for themselves, and improve the quality of air for everyone else."

Ryedale district councillor Linda Cowling added: "What many people don’t realise is that turning off the engine for only a minute or two can make a big difference to pollution, and it can also have a significant impact on fuel consumption.

"We hope that this initiative, which is part of the Malton Air Quality Action Plan, will help to minimise the impact of additional traffic arising as a result of the diversion causd by roadworks at Brambling Fields.”