Reckless ciggy tossers to lose 10 demerit points
Tossers who throw a lit cigarette out of their car will be fined as much as $11,000 and hit with 10 demerit points under the country's toughest anti-tosser laws.
With NSW declared a state of emergency amid bushfires, Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott today announced the new penalties.
Drivers who throw lit cigarettes out the window will be slapped with five demerit points which will be doubled during a total fire ban.
Mr Elliott said it was the first time a demerit point penalty has been imposed on this type of offence.
"We had an early start to the fire season this year, and just 19 days into summer, we've seen almost three million hectares burnt, more than 700 homes destroyed, and, tragically, six lives lost. Firefighters have been on the frontline fighting the blazes day and night and this kind of criminal foolishness will not be tolerated," he said.
Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said more than 200 people had been caught carelessly tossing a lit cigarette this year alone.
"Penalties don't just apply to drivers. If a passenger is caught tossing a lit cigarette on or near the roadway they will be hit with a $660 fine which will also double during total fire bans."
NSW Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough welcomed the Government's move to crack down on fire starters.
"This reckless behaviour puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk and I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette," Mr McDonough said.
Mr David Elliot reaffirmed NSW is 'completely intolerant' of butt-tossing motorists, after three fires were started in his Baulkham Hills electorate by cigarette butts thrown from vehicles.
"That's a crime, as far as I'm concerned. You should be treated the same way as an arsonist would be," Mr Elliott said, adding that 200 people had been fined in 2019 so far.
"People are continuing to do what they think is their God-given right, but it's not. It's not okay to start bushfires by flicking cigarette butts out the window."
For motorists who have already lost demerit points for other traffic offences, Mr Elliott was 'unapologetic.'
"One cigarette could cost you your licence, and I make no apology for that. I think I join the rest of the community in saying enough is enough," Mr Elliott said.
"We're nearly at a point where 800 houses have been lost, six lives have been tragically ended. These statistics are horrific. The fact that somebody would start one because they are just wilfully being ignorant about the law and the dangers that cigarette butts have to our environment, well, then I'm going to have to start coming down even harder.
"Every day for me is seeing more bushland burn. Every day we're seeing another house lost. Every day we're seeing lives put at risk, and every day I wake up worrying about the three thousand RFS volunteers. I have no hesitation asking people to dob in a tosser. If they're not going to listen to the penalty, we'll get them off the road."
RFSA spokesperson Steve Robinson thanked Minister Elliott for the new road rules, which come into effect from mid-January next year.
"Reckless behaviour is dangerous. Throwing cigarette butts out windows is dangerous. It puts me as a volunteer firefighter, know an awful lot of danger. We've got enough to do without chasing up and down roadsides putting fires out," Mr Robinson said.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy of the NSWPF Traffic and Highway Patrol Command also reminded motorists of the 'increased' risk factors on roads during the holiday season, including speeding, drink and drug driving, not wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones while driving.
"We come here every year and we talk about the risk factors of driving, particularly over the Christmas period, but this year we also have a number of bushfires burning in NSW that are affecting our arterial roads," the Assistant Commissioner said.
"Most importantly, if you get caught in an area where there are bushfires impacting roads, turn around and go the other way. Do not try to drive through flames, do not drive through thick smoke. Turn around and go home."
Assistant Commissioner Corboy encouraged motorists to plan ahead, prepare for delays and road closures in order to arrive safely for holiday celebrations.
""We want everybody to arrive safely for their journey over this Christmas period and to look out for each other, so please slow down on our roads, have a plan, make sure you're well rested and never get behind the wheel if you're fatigued or affected by drugs or alcohol," said NSW Centre of Road Safety Executive Director Bernard Carlon, adding that 222 deaths from 2019's road toll were on country roads.
Director Carlon also urged motorists to slow down around and move over for emergency services works. "
""Make sure you know the rules, you slow down around those emergency service workers who are out there fighting these fires."