During and after snow events the Highway Department receives phone calls regarding damage to mailboxes, either from snow plows directly or from the force of snow being thrown by plows. If such damage is indeed caused by snow removal, it is not done intentionally. It’s an unfortunate consequence of snow removal. As far as the department replacing damaged mailboxes, it must be pointed out that there is no statutory or legal authority requiring the Highway Department to do so. In fact, under Section 319 of the New York State Highway Law, mailboxes are considered highway obstructions and are only “allowed” in the right-of-way as a convenience to the owner. An opinion issued by the Attorney General on February 28, 1966 stated, “When necessity of keeping the highway open conflicts with an individual’s reception of the mail, the later must stand aside.” The highway crew does their best to avoid mailboxes, but often times visibility, oncoming traffic and heavy snow work against them. The best method to protect your mailbox during the winter months is to ensure it is property attached to the post and to keep the mailbox assembly simple to limit impact surface area for plowed snow.
Over the last few years, the practice of plowing or depositing snow from private driveway or private property onto the highway has increased significantly especially after roadways are cleared and snow has been pushed back behind the shoulders by the Highway Department. This is a dangerous practice and is strictly prohibited under Section 1219 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 214 of the New York State Highway Law. Depositing snow or ice onto the roadway or shoulder may result in a serious accident and the person or persons responsible may face large fines. More information can be found under “Did You Know????”.
A considerable amount of tax money is spent to ensure the roads are cleared in an efficient manner after snow and ice events. Snow removal efforts do not guarantee bare or dry roads. The cost to provide these conditions would far outstrip what most tax payers would be willing to pay. Even when bare roads can be obtained, weather conditions such as wind and rapidly dropping temperatures can alter highway conditions dramatically from one area to the next. The best course of action for anyone traveling during the winter months is to adjust your driving to meet the conditions present. Sections 1180 (a) and 1180 (e) of New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law state that “No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” Accepted safe winter driving practices include, but are not limited to, slower driving, increased braking distance, and increased vehicle separation. Following these guidelines will significantly reduce your chances of being involved in an accident on slick roads.
Jimmy Fugel, Highway Superintendent