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Since You Asked: Balloon litter

Do balloons placed on new and used cars really perk up sales? When these balloons let go and seek freedom, why doesn't the litter law apply? Is enforcement impossible?

Are the car dealership owners liable when these balloons cross paths with commercial airliners and private aircraft or when they become tangled in overhead electric lines? I have seen "globules" of balloons floating directly over the airport many times and wonder what may happen should the balloons eventually collide with an aircraft.

— Roger W., Medford

As you suspected, Roger, there's no evidence to suggest balloons take vehicle sales up, up and away, though sometimes it seems some dealerships look like balloon lots with some cars parked in them.

But some auto dealerships continue to display them in hopes they might catch attention, and in attracting the eye, they might play some role in bringing in people to browse the shiny vehicles, at the very least.

Our law enforcement sources tell us intentionally releasing balloons into the air might technically be littering under state law, but Medford police haven't cited anyone.

An errant balloon, however, would not be considered litter.

"It wouldn't be any different than if the wind whipped up and blew your car tarp away," said Medford Police Lt. Tim Doney.

The Federal Aviation Administration does have some regulations about mooring and releasing balloons near airports.

Balloons may not be moored more than 500 feet above the ground or within five miles of an airport. Balloon releases must be cleared with the FAA in advance in order to notify pilots.

A dealership could be liable if an unauthorized balloon release were to cause an aircraft accident.

A Pacific Power representative has told us in the past that balloons do sometimes cross power lines and cause problems, but they can't stop people from using balloons nor can they stop the wind from pushing them to "freedom."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.