Litter prevention campaign aims to curb roadside debris
June 16, 2022
Every year, more than 12 million pounds of litter ends up on Washington’s roadways and up to 40% - almost 5 million pounds - comes from unsecured cargo blowing out of trucks and cars. This debris isn’t just unsightly, it’s dangerous to motorists, people who walk, bike or roll, and roadside workers. Washington recognized National Secure Your Load Day on June 6, which commemorates people whose lives were impacted or taken by unsecured loads and encourages drivers to properly secure their loads every time they drive.
The We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign, which initially focused on alerting Washingtonians about the significant safety and environmental impacts of unsecured vehicle loads. The statewide Secure Your Load for Safer Roads program is a partnership between the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission aimed at increasing safety and reducing roadside litter.
Drivers can get pulled over and ticketed if their loads are not properly secured in accordance with state law. Fines for littering and unsecured loads range from $50 to $5,000. If an item falls out and causes bodily harm or property damage, the driver could also face jail time. The largest fines are for “lit debris” — primarily cigarettes — and items that can cause vehicle crashes.
Roadside litter is an expensive and unrelenting problem in Washington. The Washington State Department of Transportation and Department of Ecology together spend $8.5 million a year on efforts to clean the state’s roads and highways. Last year, Ecology-funded pickup programs spent more than 125,000 hours collecting nearly 5.2 million pounds of litter and cleaning nearly 22,000 miles of road. In just the first four months of 2022, WSDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway volunteers and maintenance crews have already found and removed 136 tons of litter and debris from roadways and rights of way.
In addition to unsecured loads, the We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign focuses on additional littering behaviors in several sub-campaigns. Statewide advertising for the 2022 Secure Your Load for Safer Roads campaign runs through June.
The public can lend a hand cleaning up roadside litter through WSDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway volunteer program. Anyone interested in joining can learn more on the Adopt-a-Highway program webpage.
To learn more about this campaign, visit SecureLoadsWA.org or SujetaTuCargaWA.org.
Call 911 if you see a dangerous unsecured load or something fall from a vehicle.