A video of a driver flicking what appears to be a cigarette out the window prompted outrage online in 2018. (screenshot)

Drivesmart column: The world is my ashtray

Some people always toss their butts out the window regardless of the time of year or risk

By Tim Schewe

I found myself waiting for a red light behind another vehicle this week. That vehicle’s driver had his window down, his elbow on the sill and was holding what was left of his cigarette between left thumb and forefinger. I knew exactly what was going to happen: one last drag on the butt and flick, away it went into the ditch.

What’s more, if I looked to my left I would almost think that I was stopped next to an ashtray. The ground was covered with discarded butts left to smoulder into oblivion by people who probably didn’t stop to think of the potential for destruction that their action represented.

I agree, between October and April of each year there might not be a lot of risk, but once the habit is formed it will continue through May to September without a second thought.

The best illustration of this were drivers that I had stopped for a traffic violation. Occasionally as I walked up to the driver’s door they would toss a butt out onto the pavement. I would offer to pick it up but warned that it would cost them if I did. They could choose to do it themselves for free.

There was usually a pause at this point while the driver tried to decide if I was serious or not. Sometimes it took a while, but all of them eventually decided I was and got out to retrieve their garbage.

Now what? In many of these situations the ashtray in the vehicle was as clean as the day it had been installed at the factory. The driver would look around for something else to use and only reluctantly put it in the ashtray as a last resort.

Obviously, some people always toss their butts out the window regardless of the time of year or risk in doing so.

One might think that even if a fire were to start, the grassy median between two strips of double laned asphalt would contain it and nothing too serious would happen. My experience shows otherwise, as I have seen median fires fanned by winds that easily jumped across the pavement and either started into the forest or toward homes and businesses.

Half of the forest fires in B.C. each year are caused by human activity and smoking materials are high on the list of culprits.

If you are a smoker, please use your ashtray. If you don’t, you never know who might be watching and may choose to provide your licence plate number to police. A violation ticket for discarding that butt under the Wildfire Act carries a penalty of $575 no matter what time of year it is.

The case of R v Barre is an example of instances that are dealt with by a court appearance rather than a traffic ticket. Mr. Barre admitted starting the Barriere McLure fire in July 2003.

There is no indication that Mr. Barre was required to pay for fire control costs, but there is provision for this in the Wildfire Act.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Extension given for Cowichan region homeless tenting sites

Meeting with BC Housing to determine the next step

Business notes: Realtors raise $10,000 for Nourish Cowichan

The latest from Cowichan’s business community

North Cowichan mayor answers questions about new RCMP detachment

The current building went up in 1980, when there were 30 people working there.

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

UPDATE: Military reservist facing 22 charges after allegedly ramming gates at Rideau Hall

The man, who police have not yet officially identified, will be charged with multiple offences

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read