Wait for it, yeah, almost . . . there! I knew it. I’d been following a newer model sedan for several blocks, the driver’s left hand draped languidly out the open window. Every now and then, said hand disappeared into the car, up to the driver’s mouth for a nice long drag, then out it went again, the breeze conveniently knocking ashes off the end of the fag. I knew what was coming. I could just feel it—an annoyance more offensive than having to close my own window against cigarette stink. Bingo, there it was, the careless flip sending the still burning butt pirouetting to the pavement, where it bounced to a standstill, shedding sparks as it landed.
What is wrong with people who consider the whole outdoors their own private ash can? Why can’t they use the ash tray they paid for in their own vehicle? Aside from the annoyance of second-hand smoke and the littering, there is the very real issue of safety. People who nonchalantly dangle their smokes outside a moving car develop a habit; it is as seductive as reaching for the next light. Once established, this habit is as unconscious as an eye-blink. The danger is that this behavior ultimately occurs outside the city, in rural areas, in forests, wherever cars move at a leisurely pace.
The last thing we need is to compound the strain on firefighters and their resources as they battle tinder dry conditions and the increasing natural fire danger that climate change has saddled them with. A careless butt, danced by traffic breeze into dry grass beside the road, results in potential disaster and waste of resources. The recent Fraiser fire beside Idaho Highway 17 is a case in point. The fire required 135 firefighters and threatened homes in a nearby subdivision. Investigators believe the fire was started by flipped butt. Besides costing tax-payer dollars, these unnecessary burns bleed resources from already strapped firefighting agencies.
Idaho law prohibits the negligent tossing from any vehicle (or depositing anywhere upon or alongside a roadway) any debris. The list provided in the Title 18, Chapter 39 includes:
- Nails, tacks
- hoops, cans,
- barbed wire,
- trash or garbage, lighted material
- other waste substance
Upon conviction, litterers may be punished up to $300 (or imprisoned up to 10 days). Now here is an interesting and little known fact. By provision of section 19-4705 of the Idaho Code, the court may order that $50 of the imposed fine be paid, by the defendant, to the person who provided information that led directly to the arrest and conviction of the defendant. To report an offender, one needs the license plate number, the location and time, and the ability to identify the driver of the vehicle.
A few years ago, I was quite militant about reporting butt flippers to the police. I never pressed charges, hoping that it would be shock enough to the offenders to open the front door to a police officer informing them of their rights. The entire process became too detrimental to my blood pressure, so I laid off for a while. But perhaps, now that I’m retired, I might have the wherewithal to do battle with butt flippers again. In researching this post, I also stumbled upon an interesting online litterbug data base.
Most states have similar littering laws. So, you butt flippers, be aware! The road has eyes! Think before you flip.