Tossing That Cigarette Butt Can Cost You $480 (Or More)

The California Highway Patrol and Caltrans will be out in force on Bay Area roads this week to do a little “spring cleaning” and highlight the problem of litter on California’s highways.

The statewide “Don’t Trash California” campaign, which kicks off on Wednesday, aims to increase awareness of the costs of tossing trash on the highway and the danger it poses to other motorists, CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said.

“We want to continue to educate the public on the costs of littering and the danger of driving with an improperly secured load,” McDermott said.

In 2012, Caltrans spent an estimated $50 million to clean up trash left along highways. Workers collected enough roadside litter to fill more than 8,000 garbage trucks, the agency reported.

CHP officers will be on the lookout for litterbugs during the campaign, McDermott said.

A citation for throwing trash or a cigarette out of a vehicle costs a minimum of $480, CHP Officer Daniel Hill said.

Many municipalities double the fine and charge an offender up to $1,000, Hill said. Some offenders are required to pick up trash along the highway as part of a penalty.

A truck driver or motorist who unintentionally spills an unsecured load can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined a minimum of $234, Hill said.

Ladders, mattresses, and Christmas trees are among the items most commonly spilled, posing a major hazard to other motorists, according to McDermott.

Wednesday’s litter cleanup event will mark the 11th year that the CHP and Caltrans have teamed up to increase public awareness of litter on highways.

Caltrans crews, CHP officers and volunteers will be cleaning up highways at several Bay Area locations on Wednesday, including U.S. Highway 101 south of Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Highway 101 near North San Pedro Road in San Rafael, Interstate Highway 80 near the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza, and Highway 101 near Alum Rock Road in San Jose.

Anyone who wants information on Caltrans’ Adopt-A-Highway Program can call (866) ADOPT-A-HWY or go online at

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