Department of Ecology News Release - April 5, 2007
YAKIMA - The message to litterers and drivers with unsecured loads is clear-you are being watched and you will be caught and fined.
The Washington Department of Ecology's (Ecology) kicked off its new litter prevention campaign today in Yakima with the focus of increasing public awareness about the most dangerous litter behavior-driving with unsecured loads and throwing lit cigarettes.
"Litter in Washington is a problem, and it's more than just an eyesore, it's dangerous." said Megan Warfield, who coordinates Ecology's litter program. "Road debris is involved in about 400 vehicle accidents on state highways each year. People are getting hurt - even killed - and property is being damaged and destroyed."
This spring, Ecology is teaming with the Washington State Patrol and many other state and local partners in delivering a broad-based litter public education and enforcement campaign. Since launching the "Litter and it will hurt" campaign several years ago, the state has made a great deal of progress, but there is still more that can be done to reduce littering.
More than 10 million pounds of litter is tossed or flies from vehicles each year. An estimated 480 million cigarette butts get tossed on Washington roadways each year. Lit cigarettes can - and do - start fires, which is a special concern in Central Washington.
The Washington State Department of Transportation responds to about 40 brush or grass fires along state highways each year. Responding to roadside fires can cost taxpayers up to $100,000 an acre. The fine for throwing a lit cigarette from a vehicle is $1,025.
"We will be watching for litterers and we will be writing tickets," said Sgt. Ed McAvoy, working from the State Patrol's Union Gap office. "Our patrol officers see firsthand the tragic results of accidents caused by unsecured loads. We are personally motivated to make sure people realize that lives are at stake and littering has dire consequences."
The fine for failing to properly secure a load is $194. If something flies out of a vehicle and causes property damage, the driver may be subject to misdemeanor charges. If someone is injured, the driver may be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which could result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
Ecology's "Litter and it will hurt" campaign combines humorous ads with a variety of public awareness and law enforcement tools to capture people's attention and send a very serious message: Litter is more than just an eyesore. It's dangerous. And those who litter face significant consequences and fines.
Here are some examples:
Enforcement Each year, the State Patrol stops thousands of people for littering and will be increasing enforcement as part of the campaign. Two-week enforcement emphasis patrols are being scheduled throughout the state. (The next ones begin on April 13 in Grant, Grays Harbor, King and Kitsap counties).
Advertisements - Television advertisements begin airing statewide on April 16. The ads remind litterers that "they are being watched" and that Washington has tough littering penalties. The ads can be viewed at http://litter.wa.gov/c_media.html.
Hotline - 866-LITTER-1 (866-548-8371) The state's toll-free hotline for reporting littering allows citizens to be a part of the solution. Ads, road signs and other campaign materials promote the hotline. Callers provide litter incident details to live operators and litterers who are reported receive letters with warnings about penalties.
Road signs - Much of Washington's litter is thrown or blown out of vehicles. Signs placed along more than 7,000 miles of roadway around the state are spreading the "Litter and it will hurt" message to motorists and publicizing the hotline number.
Sponsorships Businesses are invited to join the fight against litter by distributing litterbags and other materials and posting reminders to spread the campaign's messages.
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Megan Warfield, litter programs coordinator, 360-407-6963
Joye Redfield-Wilder, public information manager, 360-575-2610, or cell, 509-961-6277
For more information on the litter prevention campaign: www.litter.wa.gov/campaign.html
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.html.