The observation deck isn't a real place, mind you. It's a mental approach I use for studying littering. Cool detachment, scientific precision, just the bare facts, absent of emotion.
From my perch I look for omissions, contradictions, missed opportunities and reasons why. So I’m looking at CentreLine, the one-page info sheet that accompanies my Ontario vehicle plate sticker renewal form.
What a perfect publication for information about roadside litter! When you total what Ontario and municipalities spend on cleaning up the stuff, you might think a caution to drivers to not litter would be higher on the list of priorities than an offer to purchase a vanity licence plate.
Roadside litter is now a declared hazard in countries as far flung as China and New Zealand, and closer to home in Texas and Illinois. “Roadside litter” in the Chinese language recently made it into the Cambridge online dictionary so prevalent is the habit of littering from cars in China now. You might think I’m joking that banana peels are in the top three items tossed from vehicles in China. I’d hate to see an elder slip on one of those skins. It takes two years for a banana peel to decompose on pavement.
Why is there no mention of litter in the handout that goes to every single licensed driver in the Province of Ontario? Clearly the thinking behind this government insert hasn’t been updated in years. This is such a missed opportunity to focus on one of the Ministry of Transportation’s main responsibilities – clean highways.
CentreLine informs us that drinking and driving laws in Ontario have changed and hits us with a few ‘did you know?’ alcohol facts. It references distracted driving, no hands-on phone talk or texting or face up to $500 in fines. We read about no smoking with kids in a car and the availability of the enhanced driver’s licence. There is contact information and details on how to access online Ministry of Transportation services.
Half the 7- x 14-inch sheet from MTO spends way too many lines on three apparently frequently asked questions: what to do when approaching a stopped police vehicle with its lights flashing, who can use and how to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes and how to figure out whether the vehicle needs a Drive Clean emissions test.
But does the sheet once mention not littering from vehicles, particularly the number one scourge of all litter bar none, from roadside to seaside, cigarette butts? The silence is beyond deafening. Something stinks worse than a littered butt smoldering in a grocery store parking lot.
Hello, MTO? Time for a major redesign and a fresh rewrite of that CentreLine insert. Advertising Ontario’s litter laws should be there front and centre, and perhaps enforcement might not be far behind.