Litter can cause fires near England's highways Image: Open Government Licence v3.0

The dangers vehicle litter amid sizzling temperatures

Litter thrown from passing vehicles such as glass bottles, cigarette butts and plastic can spark fires in this dry weather

The past ten days has seen 56 fires recorded on grass verges across England. These were near to the motorway and major A-road network managed by Highways England.

Recently, on the M5 in the Midlands, Highways England worked with the emergency services to support a serious fire involving a HGV that was carrying hay.

Highways England emergency planning officer, Frank Bird, said:

“Smoke from roadside fires can drift across motorways posing a hazard to drivers. We’ve seen an increase in fires on grass verges near some of our motorways, for example on the M42 in the Midlands.

“With the land being so dry, it often only takes a small spark to take hold. We’d urge people to avoid throwing any items from vehicles at any time, but particularly in these hot conditions. Please take all of your litter home with you or dispose of it in a proper manner.”

200,000 sacks of rubbish cleared every year

While Highways England clears litter, picking it up close to fast-moving traffic puts road workers at risk. It is also unsightly as well as a risk to wildlife and the environment.
The company urges road users to take their litter home. It is working with partners such as Keep Britain Tidy to tackle the problem at source and make littering socially unacceptable.
Every year, Highways England removes about 200,000 sacks of litter from across our motorways.
Clearing litter from busy roads such as motorways is a huge challenge costing time and money which could be better spent on other priorities.

Drivers travelling in this heat wave are being advised to:

  • Take a bottle of water with them before setting out to ensure they stay hydrated
  • Plan and leave plenty of time for their journeys
  • Check the weather forecast for their destination
  • Check travel conditions before setting out and, where it is safe to do so, during journeys
  • Ensure their cars are fit for the journey