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Dear Wally Waste-Not,
I was driving down the road behind a pickup truck and some trash flew out from the back onto the road. Either they didn’t notice or didn’t care, because they kept on driving. How do I report someone who litters from their car?

Signed,
Litter Drives Me Nuts

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Dear Driver,

Thank goodness it wasn’t something that damaged your vehicle or caused an accident! Debris flying out of vehicles can be dangerous and even deadly. A study conducted by AAA indicated roadway debris caused over 200,000 accidents from 2011 to 2014, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 fatalities. According to the California Highway Patrol, vehicle-related trash accounts for twelve million pounds of litter on our roads each year. Uncovered loads are the #1 cause of roadside litter and debris.

Caltrans spends more than $67 million annually picking up litter and debris in California. That’s in addition to the combined millions spent by local public agencies, and the countless volunteer hours spent on community cleanup events.  Personal costs can also add up. California vehicle codes 23114 and 23115 require any vehicles transporting any type of cargo load to be totally covered to prevent any part of the load from escaping from the vehicle. Violations for litter start with a fine of $1,000 and if an item falls off a vehicle and causes bodily harm, the driver faces gross misdemeanor charges, penalties of up to $5,000 and up to a year in prison. Uncovered loads also cost more at disposal facilities, potentially doubling the disposal fee. That bag of trash from a quick takeout lunch carelessly tossed in the back of a pickup truck could end up being a really expensive lunch.

Sometimes it’s not as blatant or intentional as flicking a cigarette butt out the window. Litter can happen accidentally, like when a receipt or candy wrapper falls out from the inside door pocket onto a parking lot. Getting in the habit of using a litterbag in the car to collect bits of trash can prevent unintentional contribution to this big problem. Also be aware that an open truck bed might be used as a garbage can by a passer-by, so when leaving a job site or a parking lot, always check for trash before getting in.  No matter how the litter got there, the vehicle driver is responsible for anything coming out of his or her vehicle.

To report roadside litter and debris in Monterey County, visit www.keepmontereycountyclean.org. Call 911 to contact authorities about a hazardous situation or crime in progress.