Road Signs: Could An Accident Have Been Prevented?

Matthew Powell

A Tampa auto accident can leave a person in physical, emotional, mental, and financial distress.  When it could have been prevented with better signage on the road, the devastation can hit even harder, particularly if the accident leads to paralysis or death.

Poor Signage

Often, the signs are there but they are too small or damaged to a point that they cannot be clearly read.  When driving past this kind of sign at highway speeds, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of the message that it contains.

A recent study looked into how often drivers overlook signs on the roadway.  Though not every case turns into an accident, the statistics were astounding and do point to a potential problem in highway safety.  Fifty percent of surveyed individuals admitted that they have driven past an exit ramp, business, or other intended destination because they didn’t see the sign.  Many of those individuals also admitted that they had made an unsafe maneuver in order to get off the exit or into the parking lot at the last minute.  Those types of maneuvers are dangerous and can even be considered deadly depending on the circumstances.

Construction signs that are small or improperly placed are another big concern of drivers, many of whom agree that they have had trouble stopping when coming upon construction because they hadn’t seen the warning sign.

Stolen or Damaged Signage

If it’s bad that the sign is hard to read, what if it isn’t there at all?  In late October of this year, police confiscated 30 stolen road signs from the walls of a Tennessee home.  The 20-year old offender had police visitors due to a domestic dispute.  When the authority figures asked to come in to be sure no one was injured or harmed in anyway, they did not find what they were expecting.  Though no one else was harmed, street signs were clearly visible and covering the walls.  Just as obvious was the orange traffic barrel in the middle of the living room.  Signs hung all over the home and more were discovered in a pile beneath a child’s bed.  Thirty were found in total; all of which were delivered to the Highway Department, while the offender was transported to jail.

Legal Action

If you are involved in a car accident that was a result of missing, damaged, or poorly placed signage, then you should speak to a personal injury attorney.  You must determine who is negligent and/or who is responsible for the roads in that area.  The website of the state or county will often provide this information, but your lawyer can also help in narrowing it down.  Of course, it is not always the municipality or state that is too blame.  If the sign was stolen, then the thief is responsible for the accident (assuming that the DOT hasn’t had time to replace it).  In that case, the perpetrator must be tracked down, which is not always an easy thing to do.  Most sign thieves will get away, never being caught.

If you claim that the sign was never there, the DOT must prove otherwise — that appropriate signage was there at the time of the accident.  They will rely on cameras and accident reconstruction to do so.  If they can’t prove it, then the reason for it not being there will be investigated.

Matthew Powell

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