RURAL campaigners have renewed calls to make it easier to fine people for littering from cars.
It follows research by a car breakdown and recovery company Green Flag, which shows 29 million cigarette butts are thrown from cars each year.
The research reveals that 9m drivers – equivalent to 18% of motorists – threw litter from their cars in 2011.
Estimates suggest items thrown from car windows included 29m cigarette butts, 17.4m food items and 5.2m tissues.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England says effective action to tackle the problem outside London is being hampered by inadequate legislation.
CPRE president Bill Bryson said inconsiderate drivers seemed to have little regard for the appearance of towns or countryside.
"Litter is becoming the default condition of the British roadside.
"Often these days you feel as if you are driving through a kind of large, informal linear tip. Surely we are entitled to expect better.
"A clean and lovely countryside shouldn't be a surprise. It should be a right."
CPRE campaigners are calling for tougher sanctions against drivers who allow litter to be thrown from their cars by making sure they face a fine when it happens.
Clearing up litter currently costs councils in England £863m a year.
But this figure doesn't include the cost of cleaning Highways Agency roads (Motorways and many A roads) and land along railways, or the cost of clearing fly-tipping on public or private land.
The CPRE claims the actual figure for clearing up litter in England is over £1bn annually.
Existing laws allows councils to fine people up to £80 if they can be shown to have thrown litter from a car.
In practice however, councils find it very difficult to use this power as it is often impossible to prove who within the car was responsible for throwing the litter.
The CPRE is campaigning for what it claims would be a simple amendment to the existing law which would allow councils to issue fines to the registered owner of the vehicle.
The owner would then be responsible for paying the fine unless they nominated another person to do so, it said.
This was a "fairly standard legal procedure" which already applied for speeding fines, seat belt offences, parking infringements and fly-tipping.
The London Local Authorities Act, which comes into force later this month, will introduce a similar change in London.
The CPRE said it wanted all councils in England to have the effective powers they need to fine those who litter from vehicles.
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