The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

July 19, 2013

Road signs serve a purpose

Pilfering them affects drivers’ safety

— Stealing or vandalizing highway road signs, whether to be mischievous or for the purpose of collecting something to display in one’s garage or bedroom isn’t cool.

In fact, it can be downright costly from a safety or financial standpoint.

It could also lead to criminal charges, even lawsuits in the case of a motorist being injured or worse.

“We thought (stealing signs) was a fad that’s going to go away, but obviously it’s not,” Kirk Moss, Adams Township police chief, told our Patrick Buchnowski this week.

Missing signs are a danger to motorists, especially out-of-towners who are not familiar with the area’s roads, he noted.

Further south, Conemaugh Township, Somerset County, officials have been dealing with a similar problem.

In the spring, about 15 street signs and metal posts had been snatched from the North Fork and Thomas Mills areas. The problem is worsening, Supervisor Steven Buncich said this week.

“We’ve lost six or eight more,” he told Buchnowski. “The problem seems pretty much isolated to the North Fork Dam area.”

Buncich added that stop signs also have been run over, which authorities believe was intentional.  

While PennDOT keeps no statistics on thefts involving its signage, Pam Kane, safety press officer for the Hollidaysburg-based District 9 office, says the department is very aware of the dangers posed by missing signs.

“Individuals stealing signs should be cognizant of the reasons the signs were placed initially. Regulatory signs, like stop signs; slow, curve ahead; even school-bus-stop-ahead signs are placed as a warning to motorists about conditions of the roadway.

“As simple as this sounds, a stop sign is designed to have motorists stop at an intersection to avoid a crash. If that sign is not there, a motorist may not know that he or she should stop and, consequently, a crash could occur.”

In the case of speed-limit signs, Kane noted that they “are placed on a roadway because a speed study has been completed to determine the maximum safe speed on a roadway – if that sign is not in place, motorists will not know how fast they should go and could, once again, crash.

“Ultimately, if regulatory safety signs are not in place along a roadway, motorists will not receive the valuable safety information that they convey. Without receiving that kind of information, a motorist could crash, and, in the worst-case scenario, die because a sign was not in place.”

Added Adams Township’s Moss: “If you don’t know there’s a sign missing and you go blowing through an intersection, you’re going to get   T-boned. We’re very, very concerned.”

We are too. The possibilities of what can happen are mind-boggling.

Conemaugh Township police Chief Louis Barclay noted that the thieves could face charges including theft, receiving stolen property, vandalism and reckless endangerment.

We urge those involved in the thefts and vandalism to stop, and for anyone who has information about the miscreants to report them.

If you see a stop sign or another professional highway sign on somebody’s private property, you probably can assume the resident didn’t buy it.  

Call the police.

Do likewise if you notice that important road sign-age is missing.

Immediate action very likely could prevent a crash, even save a life.

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