The Don’t mess with Texas® campaign has been around for nearly 30 years. Yet the challenge to eliminate trash from the roadways and streets of Texas continues to loom large.
In fact, a 2013 Visible Litter Study by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), among other groups, indicates that more than 434 million items of visible litter accumulate annually on the TxDOT-maintained roadway system.
If you’re like me, nothing boils your blood more than seeing a motorist flick a cigarette butt or other form of trash out their car window onto the street. Cigarette butts actually are the number one littered item in America, and 139,000 cigarette butts are smoked and discarded every 15 seconds in the U.S.
So what do you do if you catch someone littering from their car in Texas? Don’t resort to vigilante justice. Rather, jot down some quick notes with the offender’s information and report them to the TxDOT’s “Report a Litterer” program.
Here’s how I did it:
- The situation: While driving home from work Aug. 21, I witnessed a driver in a Ford Escape (see photo on right) toss a cigarette butt out of their driver-side window at 30th and Lamar in Austin, Texas.
- The action: Fortunately, the driver switched lanes and slowed down just ahead of my vehicle, and we came to a stop in traffic. I took out my mobile phone and snapped a photo of the license plate to record it. Later, I visited this site and filled out the form to report the driver. (Note: Please make sure to be safe, and do not record a litterer while your vehicle is in motion.)
- The aftermath: Taken directly from the TxDOT website: “TxDOT compares the information through the Department of Motor Vehicles registration database, and when an exact match is located, we send the litterer a Don’t mess with Texas litterbag along with a letter reminding them to keep their trash off of our roads.”
To make it even easier to report offenders, there also is a “Report A Litterer” mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.
The downside is that by reporting a driver, you’re creating trash in the form of the litterbag and letter. But hopefully, those items get recycled and/or the long-term behavior change by the driver offsets the waste that is generated.
Getting back to cigarette butts, it’s particularly important to keep these off Texas roadways because of drought conditions that afflict many parts of the state. It takes just one small spark to start a major wildfire, so let’s all do our part to prevent and deter this type of behavior.
And thank you to TxDOT for providing this resource to clean up our roadways!
NOTE: There also is a way to report polluting vehicles in Texas. Learn more.