Illegal Signs and Public Safety

The proliferation of illegal signs littering the public right-of-way is not just a blight issue; it is a real public safety concern. Illegal signs are an eyesore that end up on city streets, in gutters and distract drivers creating an issue of health and safety. In an October 2006 press release by the Ohio State Department of Transportation, Jack Marchbanks, Transportation Deputy Director, said: "The signs are a safety concern because they can cause sight distance problems, especially at intersections. We are also concerned with the safety of those people who pull off the side of the road to place the signs." 

In addition to traffic safety, these signs are also visual blight that creates the same negative perception of a community as graffiti or other forms of vandalism. Illegal signs are one of the many quality of life violations that when ignored lead to more serious criminal activity as shown by the results of a study by researchers James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published in March 1982 Atlantic Monthly article "Broken Windows." 

Nails and tacks placed on utility poles to place illegal signs create problems for utility workers such as puncturing insulated safety clothing, exposing linemen to serious injury, even electrocution. The Eudora News of Eudora Kansas in a March 29, 2007 article "City to Crack Down on Illegal Signs," quoted Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty stating: "If a lineman needs to climb a pole, their cleats get stuck and caught on nails and it can make them fall, I'm sure people don't want to see the lineman fall 20 to 30 feet to their death." 

An anti-illegal sign-posting flyer by the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVC) states: "The nails and screws used to post signs create direct and indirect hazards for NOVEC crews. The primary danger is that these sharp objects can tear the rubber gloves and sleeves our employees wear to protect them from getting electrocuted. A secondary danger is the damage that's done to the pole. Over time, water seeps into holes surrounding nails, damaging the pole. Eventually the pole deteriorates and has to be replaced, creating another expense." 

To address this problem, the City of Los Angeles enforces local and state laws prohibiting illegal signs through the Bureau of Street Services, Investigation and Enforcement Division. Please call 3-1-1 to report illegally posted signs on the public right-of-way.