As the drought stretches on, Indiana State Police are cracking down on drivers who toss cigarette butts from their vehicles.
State law stipulates that a person who throws a lighted cigarette, cigar, match or other burning material from a moving motor vehicle can face a Class A infraction, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000. State police have issued 198 such citations so far in 2012.
In an agency-wide memo, ISP Superintendent Paul Whitesell stressed that while the burn bans issued in 85 counties are usually patrolled by local authorities, troopers should also be on the lookout for any activity that could spark fires.
"As Indiana state troopers, we have the discretion to take enforcement action under these statutes, thus doing our part to protect the safety of the citizens, in addition to the natural resources of Indiana," he said.
There have been several grass fires reported along area interstates recently, although discarded cigarettes have not been named as the cause.
The law banning throwing lighted items from a vehicle has been around for five years. Cigarettes aren't the only cause of roadside fires, but they are a leading one.
"We're going to be watching, and we have to be in this dry condition," said ISP Sgt. John Bowling. "We've had so many fires, inadvertent fires, on state roads, on the interstate, just everywhere."
Many drivers said they support the crackdown.
"My son's grass caught on fire the other day. Somebody put the cigarette in his lawn, and it caught on fire," one driver said.
"We've already seen one spot burnt in the median on the way here. We're from Ohio," another driver said. "It wouldn't take but maybe half of a spark to catch the median on fire, catch the grass on fire, catch something on fire, and get something out of hand."
Another driver had a more extreme punishment.
"I think they ought to also make the guy eat the butt that he throws out," he said. "If he sees him do it, arrest him and make him eat the butt."
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