WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Cigarette smokers: Don't throw your cigarettes out the window while driving!

You may have heard on WDEL, or read here at wdel.com the story of the Elsmere man who tossed a lit cigarette out his window near the westbound Kirkwood Highway exit.

According to fire investigators, the wind blew the cigarette back into this man's vehicle, igniting the interior, and sending the car cascading into a ravine.

Several other motorists helped extricate this man from his flaming and smoking car.

Even so, the victim suffered third-degree burns to the lower part of his body.

Let this unfortunate accident be an object lesson to smoking motorists: Don't throw your cigarette butts out your windows.

Yes, this was a freak accident, but so often, I've seen smoking motorists throw out their cigarettes only to land in the path of MY car, cause for split-second decision-making. Do I swerve to avoid that cigarette on the pavement, risking an accident, or do I just take my chances?

Yes, more often then not, I suppose, the cigarette will remain on the pavement rather than getting trapped - still possibly smouldering - within the treads of my tires. The tire may very well extinguish the cigarette.

But what IF? What if the darn thing keeps smouldering and ignites the tire? What if it hits a streak of oil or some other flammable substance on the pavement?

Do cigarette smokers ever give any thought to this? Or indeed, considering they continue to smoke despite the massive, overwhelming evidence of smoking's multitude of negative consequences (from health effects to sparking fires), should one just stereotypically ASSUME smokers as a group are generally more irresponsible?

Here's my stereotype: A smoking driver in a big, hulking, gas-guzzling SUV - hogging the road - perhaps yapping on a cellphone (although he/she - usually a "he" - is too high up to really tell), tattooed arm hanging out the window, and of course, the Confederate battle flag and/or objectionable bumper stickers with profanities in the rear. Yes, a relatively tiny percentate of smoking motorists, but that stereotype epitomizes the swaggering irresponsible attitude.

The Fourth of July holiday coming up reminds me of yet more irresponsible behavior involving fire: People shooting off fireworks -- completely illegal in Delaware.

Why doesn't the primordial portion of people's brains remind folks about the inherent dangers of fire?

Posted at 7:22pm on June 30, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jun 30, 2014 9:04pm
Sorry Allan, but there was probably a once chance in several million odds of a cigarette ricocheting in this fashion. As for your stereotype, it's possible he could have been driving a Volvo S40. Doesn't matter. Smokers drive all kinds of cars and live in all kinds of houses. The only thing different from 50 years ago is the economic class. Most smokers today are the poor who can at least afford it (a could go off on a tangent about exploitation but I won't).

Yes I agree there should be a safety lesson learned from this, but most will dismiss it as a freak accident and it won't happen to them, only the other guy.

Let's pray for the victim's full recovery, and that perhaps he'll consider quitting that nasty, unhealthy, and unsafe habit.

Allan Loudell
Tue, Jul 1, 2014 5:41am
We can agree on praying for the victim's recovery.

I confess I can't understand why economically disadvantaged folks seem to be the ones who blow it on smoking. Is it because members of that demographic group began smoking earlier in life and become hopelessly addicted to nicotine?

I've already noted on this blog about how there seems to be a cohort of working class, young adults who I'll see at the convenience stores directing the cashier to find a particular tobacco brand to accompany - almost inevitably - their coffee and greasy breakfasts.

I confess to having grown up in an anti-smoking family, which regarded tobacco as a filthy habit. I remember how my late father - around the time of the Surgeon General's first warning - calculated the literal lifetime cost of purchasing cigarettes for an uncle (married to his mother's sister), the only relative I can remember who smoked. And he died from cancer.

To return to the main topic:

Even if the danger is relatively remote, I still fail to understand what possesses smoking drivers to flip their cigarettes out their windows in front of other vehicles. If it were on a fairly unoccupied interstate highway, no big deal!

Tue, Jul 1, 2014 8:15am
I think they perceive that if they smoke with the window down and throw the butt out that it will reduce the retention of the odor in the interior. After all, nobody who doesn't smoke wants to buy a car that belonged to a smoker.

Just a theory.

Tue, Jul 1, 2014 9:56am
Most smokers I find myself stuck behind these days are either "non-males" driving a Honda CR-V (or small minivan) or a young male driving a beat-up Honda Civic (or equivalent)...and both groups, ironically, usually display a COEXIST bumper sticker on their vehicles.

mrpizza: The car will reek of cigarettes whether the cigs are tossed or left in the ash-tray...my guess is that it's just the simplest way to dispose of the filter.

I'm curious, do smokers pay higher car insurance rates? If you've ever ridden with a smoker...you would know that almost all have a burnt spot or two in the driver's side seat...a dropped cig in the lap sure would be a "distraction"!

Tue, Jul 1, 2014 2:54pm
Since it landed back in his car, will he not be charged with littering? Since that was his intention, I am hoping he is hit with the $250 fine.

Tue, Jul 1, 2014 7:06pm
Ironically, I was in Lancaster today, and in my search for an AM station, tuned in to WHP in Harrisburg, and they were talking about this very subject. Didn't hear anything about this particular incident, but they were otherwise talking about throwing cigarette butts out the window. Anyway, one caller mentioned that many cars today come without an ash tray, but if you smoke, you can go to Walmart and get one complete with a lid on it that fits into your cup-holder.

Now ain't that a hoot?

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