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The Importance of Signs

Since the beginning of when people started putting up road signs, it has been a thrill for some people to tamper with, shoot at, and steal them.  You see them mangled by the side of the road, hanging in kids’ bedrooms, in college dorm rooms, and in some garages.  The stealing and destruction of road signs seems innocent at first glance, but it is a crime.  More importantly, it can create a life and death danger for motorists.

Kansas laws KSA 21-3725 and KSA 21-3726 make it illegal to tamper with road signs. KSA 21-3725 states, “Tampering with a traffic signal is intentionally manipulating, altering, destroying or removing any light, sign, marker, railroad switching device or other signal device erected or installed for the purpose of controlling or directing the movement of motor vehicles, railroad trains, aircraft or watercraft.”  Under Kansas law, a violator of this law could be charged with a misdemeanor.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, it costs the cities, counties, or state money to replace these signs.  Secondly, these signs serve emergency services as landmarks when traveling to emergencies.  It is important to understand that in an emergency, law enforcement, EMS, and fire are traveling at high rates of speed to get to calls; such as vehicle wrecks, house fires, or someone’s loved one not breathing.  Life and death can sometimes come down to  minutes and seconds.  Missing a road because the intersection sign was removed, and traveling an extra mile before realizing it, could be a matter of life and death.

KSA 21-3726 states, “Aggravated tampering with a traffic signal is tampering with a traffic signal which results or could result in an accident causing the death or great bodily injury of any person.”  Under Kansas law, a violator of this law could be charged with a felony, and the law covers removing signs such as stop and yield signs.  Granted, you may be able to remove a stop sign at an intersection, where a fatal accident occurs, and not get caught.  However, you will have to live with the guilt of being responsible for taking a person’s life.

I am writing this article in response to a call I received and a case I'm working where someone(s) went into the country and started pulling road signs out of the ground.  I would ask that we all think twice about the serious consequences before shooting at, tampering with, or stealing a road sign.  In addition to the charge of tampering, a person can also be charged with theft and criminal damage to property.  Let’s all work together to help keep our county a safe place for each of us to live, by keeping all the road signs in the best shape possible and positioned where they have been placed.