Don’t toss flaming cigarette butts out car windows

Dear Street Smarts, Q: In this high fire danger period, is it illegal for a driver to toss a lit cigarette out the window? I observed a spark trail from a cigarette tossed out of a black mini SUV with disabled plates on Highway 17 at 8 p.m. last Saturday. What can one do? Johanna Bowen via email A: The CHP says it's best to get a description of the vehicle and driver, as well as the license plate number then call the non-emergency dispatch number at 831-796-2160. A letter will be issued to the registered owner letting him or her know about the infraction witnessed by a private citizen. Had an officer witnessed the incident, the driver would be issued a citation, a CHP official said. Learn more from the California Vehicle Code, at According to California Vehicle Code section 42001.7, the penalty for littering is a mandatory fine of not less than $100 and no more than $1,000 for a first time conviction. For second time offenders, the fine is between $500 and $1,000. For third and subsequent convictions, expect to be fined between $750 and $1,000. Offenders also can be ordered to pick up litter for eight, 16 or 24 hours, depending on how many offenses of this nature they have committed. Of course, larger fines and possible jail time can be expected if one of those lit cigarettes ignite a fire. Meanwhile, the California Fire Chiefs Association has asked people to not engage in fire sparking activities. So far this year, tens of thousands of acres in the northern part of the state have burned, several structures have been lost and people have been injured and killed in the fires, the association said. Until measurable rain falls, the very dry Golden State will remain in peak fire season, possibly for several weeks to come. Western Drive improvements From Aug. 25 through Sept. 3, Western Drive between Highway 1 and Meder Street in Santa Cruz will be transformed into a smooth road with new striping. The first week of work will feature asphalt recycling, while the second week will involve applying the new road surface. Crews with Graniterock Company will work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Expect one-way traffic controls, flaggers and a pilot car leading vehicles through the area. Expect delays and choose alternative routes. "No Parking" signs appeared 72 hours before work began and vehicles parked in the posted area will be towed. For information, call 831-420-5160.
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