By Ryan Hill

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Cars may be flying on the highway, but some drivers are noticing a different kind of pile-up.

“Trash everywhere,” Kari Wilhite said. “I’ve seen people throw stuff out the window and it’s so frustrating.”

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Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Angela DaPrato said it’s unclear how and why there’s a larger amount of litter and trash along highways for the fewer amount of cars that have been traveling during the pandemic.

“We have seen, still, an increase in litter. I don’t know if it’s people are in a rush or if things accidentally go out their window. But, it’s still a problem,” DaPrato said.

She also added that the trash level on the highway shoulders aren’t worse than they were pre-pandemic when taking into account the level of traffic, but they should be lower than what they should be with the amount of traffic that has been on the highways.

DaPrato also said that illegal dumping has become more common in rural highways, and the pandemic has also played a factor in how they can pick up certain kinds of trash on the daily clean ups.

“We have our little pickup tool which kind of limits sometimes when it’s real small debris and litter and you can’t pick it up very well. But we’re trying to be very cautious so we’re trying not to use our hands,” DaPrato said.

This protocol is in place, for now, to ensure the crews aren’t touching possibly smaller embedded trash where they don’t know who touched it last for possible community spread. Large items like tree branches are still okay to do a hands-on cleanup.

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DaPrato told CBS13 that from March 2020 to June 2020 the daily highway cleanups were halted due to the safety guidance at the time. This led to trash beginning to pile up along the highway shoulders.

Once more safety guidance was given, the daily cleanups resumed, which DaPrato said resolved a majority of the trash issues then.

“It’s always a constant battle to pick up litter,” DaPrato said.

Caltrans District 10 told CBS13 that it’s dealing with a backlog of trash cleanups following the stoppage due to the pandemic.

“We have to figure out a way to work together to make this a better place,” Nikkia Hamilton said.

In the meantime, a simple solution from Caltrans is for drivers everywhere to be more mindful of their messes.

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“It definitely a two-way street. You know, everyone has to do their own part and stop littering,” Gibb said.