Australian wildfires prompt $11,000 fine for tossing lit cigarette out of car

The penalty comes amid bushfires that have decimated some of the country.

Drivers in Australia can now face a penalty of up to $11,000 if they are caught tossing a lit cigarette out of their car.

The new punishment, which went into effect on Friday in New South Wales, can also apply to automobile passengers if they throw a cigarette. Passengers would be fined $1,320.

The hefty fine would be given if the offense was committed during a total fire ban, which is declared on days of extreme weather and prohibits people from the lighting of any fires in the open or engaging in other activities that may start a fire. It is not immediately clear how much a person would be fined when there isn't a fire ban.

The penalty comes amid the Australia bushfires that have decimated parts of the country.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough applauded the government's move to crack down on cigarette tossers. More than 200 people were caught tossing a lit cigarette out of their vehicle in New South Wales in 2019, according to a government press release.

"This reckless behavior puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk,” McDonough said in a statement. “I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette.”

In addition to the fine, offenders would receive 10 demerit points on their license.

During times when a fire ban isn't in effect, drivers will have only five demerit points added to their license.

It is the first sanction of its kind in New South Wales for such an offense.

The southeastern state has been particularly devastated by the bushfires this season.

More than 15 million acres of land have been destroyed across the country, at least 25 people have been killed and more than one billion animals are believed to have died.

More than 800 million of those animals are estimated to have been killed in New South Wales alone, according to an ecologist at The University of Sydney.

The fires began in September 2019 and are expected to continue for at least the next few weeks, though heavy rain this week offered some reprieve.