MASON CITY, Iowa – Vandalism to street signs costs the state of Iowa approximately $1 million per year in damage and replacement fees.
Not only is vandalism illegal, but it can also make roadways very unsafe for motorists.
Iowa Department of Transportation field services Coordinator Pete Hjelmstad says that even simple markings on signs can be damaging as paint and other chemicals can often strip and ruin the top reflective layer of most signs.
“They’re made with special material and if that stuff is damaged, and it doesn’t reflect light as well as night, then it’s harder to see,” Hjelmstad says.
He went on to say that a person’s unfamiliarity with roadways and intersections can be even more harmful in these situations.
“You take a stop sign away from an intersection, somebody coming from the other direction that is used to people stopping there well, all of a sudden there’s not a stop sign and someone’s not familiar and they run that intersection,” Hjelmstad says, “and you could have a pretty serious collision so it can definitely be a safety hazard.”
However, it’s not just removing or damaging a sign that can be hazardous for drivers.
According to the Iowa DOT, anyone caught in the act of vandalism could be charged up to a $1000 fine and potentially issued a 30 day jail sentence as a maximum penalty.
Engineers with Mason City say that acts of vandalism are more common as the weather begins to get warmer and that this is something that typically happens at the beginning and end of vacation or holiday seasons.