SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Earth Day is just around the corner and Caltrans wants San Diegans to be mindful of trash on our freeways.

Since last summer, workers have collected tens of thousands of pounds of trash left by drivers.

Caltrans is trying to get the word out that litter and debris on the roads is, not only extremely expensive to clean up, it's also extremely dangerous.

"[They have found] sinks, a hot water heater, televisions, VCRs, you name it," said Otto Perryman of Caltrans of the types of items found on roads. 

The list also included mattresses, record players, a copy machine, a heating unit, vacuum cleaners and more.  

Perryman says debris is found next to our roads and on them.

"It can be in the fast lane. It can be in the median. It can be on the shoulder," said Perryman. "This stuff is all stuff that is blown out of the back of someone's truck or wasn't secured good enough."

And that "stuff" can be deadly.

"About 400 crashes a year are caused by people swerving to avoid debris," said CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt. "They're trying to avoid items in the roadway."

Perryman says the problem is only getting worse.

"The litter seems to be just rampant everywhere you drive," he said.

The message from Caltrans is: Don't litter and make sure all items you're traveling with are secure.

The cost of cleanup since July has been nearly $5 million dollars.

And workers have spent 56,000 hours removing trash - rather than fixing our roads.

Since 2016, the CHP, on average, has issued about 3,000 citations a year for people littering along the freeway.

Fines are up to $1,000.