wildfires
3:49 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Tossed Cigarette Out Car Window? You Can Report Them

With wildfires scorching thousands of acres of Central Texas, people have been particularly sensitive to the danger of a wildfire. Especially the danger posed by drivers tossing lit cigarette butts out the windows of their cars.

“I'm okay with smokers, but watching someone flick a cigarette out of the car window makes me want to force them to eat it,” Michael Burnett Tweeted this week.

“I might start tweeting license plate numbers of people who throw cigarette butts out. Been seeing it more than ever,” wrote Michael Vilaythong.

Before you get charged with assault or send out jumbles of letters and numbers on Twitter, you should know there is an alternative. It won’t get people arrested, but it might shame them into altering their behavior.

Just go to www.dontmesswithtexas.org and report the litterer. Provide a time, and date, license plate, and make and model of the vehicle.

The Texas Department of Transportation will send the person a letter telling them that someone reported them littering, along with details on when and where it happened. The letter also explains why littering is bad for the environment and how much it costs the state (about $45 million a year for litter cleanup alone).

But apart from the guilt factor, the person will not face sanctions, no matter how many times they are reported.

"We don't really track the repeat offenders because we don't keep that information," said Brenda Flores-Dollar, the director of TxDOT’s litter prevention program.  “A law enforcement officer has to see someone littering before they can be fined."

That sentiment was echoed by the Austin Police Department.

“We would really have to see it happen,” Austin Police Department spokesperson Lisa Cortinas said, but added that people are still welcome to call police.

Flores-Dollar says TxDOT has not seen an increase in the number of people reporting people to the www.dontmesswithtexas.org website since major wildfires broke out across Central Texas this month.

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