Don’t toss manners, litter out window while driving

By: Eric Czarnik, | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 12, 2017

METRO DETROIT — Just as it’s important to keep a clean driving record, motorists should also be considerate by not littering — and thus keeping garbage and personal belongings from spilling out into the road, according to Michigan traffic observers.

According to Michigan law, littering of common, nonmedical waste materials is typically a civil infraction with fines that vary depending on the object’s size. However, intentional highway littering in a moving vehicle’s path can be a misdemeanor. 

Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County, said much of the roadside litter that his agency finds tends to be plastic water bottles, fast food packaging and candy wrappers. 

“It’s more of an aesthetic problem and an environmental problem than a safety problem, but it certainly is a problem,” Bryson said. “We also spend time having our employees go out and clean up along the roads. That’s time they could be doing other road maintenance activities.”

Bryson said the RCOC has an Adopt-A-Road program that periodically invites groups and organizations to volunteer and clean up a portion of a road. He said upcoming sessions will take place July 15-23 as well as Sept. 23-Oct. 1.

The program’s purpose is to beautify and declutter the county’s roadways, he explained.

“We’ll provide them with garbage bags. We’ll pick up the bags,” he said. “We’ll provide them with fluorescent safety vests and give them a little bit of training to do it.”

While littering trash generally might not seem dangerous to other drivers, Kendall Wingrove, editor at the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, said unsecured cargo loads could turn into a dangerous, unintentional form of littering.

“In 2015, there were 330 crashes that resulted from vehicles carrying unsecure loads in Michigan,” he explained. “When you transport an object that has not been fastened (correctly), and that item detaches in the roadway … in one sense that is littering.”

Wingrove said police may penalize drivers who carry unsecured loads with a misdemeanor.

Find out more about the Road Commission for Oakland County by visiting www.rcocweb.org or by calling (248) 645-2000. For more information about the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, visit www.michigan.gov/ohsp.