There's a safe way to butt in when you see drivers toss cigarettes

By Mary J. Currie / ADOT Adopt a Highway

Picking up cigarette butt with grabbers. #Trashtag

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many travelers headed out to enjoy their favorite vacation spots around Arizona will see other drivers toss lit butts along highways.Your image of postcard-pretty views along the state highways, which many of us will travel over Memorial Day weekend, probably doesn’t include cigarette butts that drivers flick carelessly – and dangerously – out of vehicles.

What happens after those butts go flying depends on conditions in the area.

Vegetation along highways is vulnerable to sparks thrown by dragging tow chains, underinflated tires riding on rims and cigarette butts. The fires they spark not only endanger lives and property but can lead to extended highway closures.

If fate decides that a cigarette butt doesn’t start a fire, summer monsoon rains may wash it from the highway into the surrounding landscape, where it will release toxins and accumulate with other trash carelessly tossed from vehicles. Or it can contribute to litter that gets into ADOT’s freeway drainage systems, making it more difficult for them to prevent standing water during storms.

But wait! There’s something each of us can to do help extinguish this problem.

If you see someone tossing a cigarette butt or any other litter along a highway, please visit ADOT’s Litter Hotline at or 877.3LITTER (877.354.8837).

Based on your report of a license plate and what you saw, we’ll send the registered owner a letter explaining that we received a report of someone tossing litter from the vehicle. The letter will remind the owner that litter is unsightly and costly to clean up, and that littering can result in a $500 fine if spotted by law enforcement. We also include a litter bag suitable for a vehicle.

I hope you have your best summer travel season ever, and I thank you for helping us Keep Arizona Grand.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author oversees ADOT Adopt a Highway programs.