Who chucked that out of the window ?

One of the most difficult types of littering to tackle is littering from vehicles. As Keep Britain Tidy’s 2009 research into littering from vehicles shows, people chuck litter from vehicles more often when anonymity is increased (i.e. they litter from a moving, as opposed to from a stationary, vehicle) and that, while people are more likely to throw litter from their vehicle in residential areas rather than on motorways and dual carriage ways (that might surprise most of us), the residential areas where they tend to litter from their vehicle are not (surprise, surprise !) in their own neighbourhoods.

The report suggested that some of the possible solutions to littering from vehicles could include : a litter bag for use in vehicles (although people were unlikely to pay for their own bag and the feeling was that, even if there was such a bag in the vehicle, messier and smellier items would still be shown the exit via the window); increased numbers of litter bins in lay-bys (and regular emptying of these bins); and a change in the legislation that applies to fines for littering from vehicles.

You may be surprised to hear that, unlike parking and seatbelt offences, the owner of a car is not automatically liable if litter is seen being chucked out of their car – no, in the case of litter, the authorities currently have to identify the person who actually threw the litter out of the car in order to impose a fine.

Cue the admirable Lord Marlesford. He has taken it upon himself to be the knight in shining armour who is going to change this ridiculous aspect of the law. In early May, he launched a private member’s bill to enable the authorities to fine the registered owner of the car, no matter which of the people in the car committed the littering offence. And, very sensibly, Lord Marlesford’s bill will allow the owner of the vehicle to nominate the guilty individual to pay the fine.

Hurrah ! Although you might think that this is a very small adjustment to the legislation (and one that could lead to interesting debates in some families about who was going to pay the fine……), it is an obvious loophole that needed to be closed and I hope that Lord Marlesford’s bill is given a speedy journey through parliament (its second reading is on July 19th). It will at least give the authorities a better chance of penalising the perpetrators of this annoying habit and it will, therefore, give them an added incentive to tackle it. Don’t expect miracles overnight, but we are, I hope, now moving a little closer to solving this elusive problem.

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