NSW drivers who toss lit cigarettes from their vehicle will face new, tougher penalties in the wake of the devastating bushfires.
The new punishments have been brought in by the NSW State Government in an effort to crack down on drivers who are recklessly disposing of lit cigarettes during bushfire season.
Under the new rules, drivers who are caught tossing a lit cigarette from their vehicle will lose five demerit points on the spot. If motorists are caught in the act during a total fire ban, the penalty will double to 10 demerit points and a fine of up to $11,000.
The current penalty for throwing a lit cigarette from a vehicle is $660 under normal conditions and up to $1320 during the total fire ban restriction.
The changes will come into effect on the 17th of January 2020.
NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot announced the revised penalties late last week. It is the first time that a demerit point punishment has been applied to 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,” Mr Elliot said.
"As far as I'm concerned, you should be treated the same as an arsonist would be."
According to the Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, more than 200 motorists have been caught tossing a lit cigarette from a vehicle in 2019.
Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough has commended the NSW Government on the tough new punishments.
“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,” said Mr McDonough.
Rural Fire Service Association secretary Steve Robinson is urging members of the public to report anyone who is seen throwing a lit cigarette out of a vehicle to the NSW Rural Fire Service hotline on 1800 679 737. NSW Police and local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the new laws.