Sign vandalism is a continued problem across North Dakota

Good Day Dakota

How often do you see a sign vandalized? Sign vandalism isn’t just a problem in North Dakota, but all over the nation.

Vandalizing a sign can be the difference between life and death for drivers in our state.

Program Director of North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program, Dale Heglund says, “It’s a serious problem in North Dakota. Getting everyone home safe every night means we have all the guidance tools, we have all the information we need to travel down the roadway and drive safely.”

Road and Highway signs serve a number of purposes. While most of them are common sense, we often don’t grasp how important they ALL are.

“We know if we go through a stop sign we could get hit. Right? But what about the 911 sign that is damaged because someone vandalized it and now the fire, the ambulance truck misses a corner because they didn’t have the information they needed to take the correct route,” says Heglund.

And what exactly counts as sign vandalism?

“Vandalism occurs in painting signs, paintball, spray paint, hitting them with trucks or equipment intentionally, shooting signs, and just overall stealing or any type of damage,” Heglund tells KX.

According to Heglund, there are some counties in North Dakota that have over 50 percent of their signs damaged from shooting alone. And while you might not think putting a little bullet in a sign isn’t that big of a deal, it actually is …

Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier says “Anytime that there is any damage to the sign, the road department wants to replace those signs because it takes away the visual aspect of it and also the reflectivity of the signs at night. So any damage to it actually effects the sign and then affects every driver that observes that sign.”

North Dakota LTAP, ND Game and Fish, and ND Department of Transportation have even partnered together to put on initiatives about sign safety. One of these is the Sign Warrior project. The program works with children to make them realize the dangerous outcomes of sign vandalism.

Technical Resource Rep. for NDLTAP, Leanna Emmer says, “It could be their loved one driving down a roadway and the sign has been vandalized and they miss that sign and as a result there could be a fatality or a serious injury.”

And the only way we can fix this problem is by focusing on the people here.

“The sign damage is almost always going to be local,” says Heglund. “There aren’t people coming in from other states doing the damage. It’s us. It’s people we know.”

The cost of replacing a sign is anywhere from $400 to $500 depending on materials.

Vandalizing a sign is a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of $500, and up to 30 days in jail.

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