Some smokers chuck their still-burning cigarettes out the windows of their vehicles and never consider it’s littering — and it could land them a serious fine. Plus, with the hot, dry weather, it could cause a blazing fire that quickly spreads.
Rose White, spokeswoman for AAA-Nebraska, says the penalties for tossing out a cigarette butt are harsh.
“Many motorists may not be aware that throwing a lit cigarette out of a moving vehicle on a Nebraska roadway could result in a hefty $500 fine and three months in jail,” White says. “A second violation of this offense could result in a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.”
A wide area of the state has been seeing steamy temperatures for weeks with very little rainfall, what White says is a bad combination with careless smokers.
“Lit cigarettes can easily start dangerous roadway brush fires causing extensive property damage and injuries,” White says. “Drought conditions across most of the Midwest make this situation extremely hazardous. Dry grass can easily ignite and when combined with windy weather, a patch of grassland can quickly turn into a blazing field in a matter of minutes.”
She says smokers who don’t properly dispose of their butts need to consider the consequences of their actions.
“Roadside fires not only place fire and emergency personnel in danger, but other motorists, as well,” White says. “Thick smoke can blind or obstruct a driver’s view. Motorists should approach such areas with extreme caution. Always reduce your speed and turn your headlights on when approaching these areas.”
You should always try to stay focused when you’re behind the wheel, but she says that’s even more so if there’s a roadside fire.
“Since you may need to brake or change lanes suddenly, refrain from any activities in your vehicle which are distracting,” White says. “Call 911 to report any unattended roadside fires, but do so only after you have safely passed the affected area.”
Officials in Ohio, where there’s also drought, plan to use digital highway signs to remind smokers not to pitch lit cigarettes.