One sure sign that it's election season: political signs.
They're popping up alongside roadways throughout Bay County and that's fine – as long as the signs are not on the right of way.
Signs on the right of way create a safety hazard, according to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the agency that enforces sign regulations along state roadways. "They can become a distraction to drivers," said DOT spokesman Ian Satter. "Larger signs could become a danger as well if you happen to collide with one of those signs." Satter said a sign on the right of way is a danger to the person who places it there, and the state employee who removes it.
According to the FDOT, the right of way includes the roadway surface, concrete or grassy median, intersections, entrance and exit ramps, and a strip of land – usually bordering either side of the road – which is reserved for shoulders, drainage ditches, sidewalks, traffic signs/signals, fencing, electrical traffic signal control boxes, utility lines and future road expansion.
The law prohibiting signs on right of ways isn't limited to political advertisements. "People just don't understand the law," said Satter. "It's against the law to put signs in the right of way, whether it's a campaign sign or a garage sale sign, [or] a ‘for sale' sign."
Satter said the FDOT contacts violators and gives them a chance to remove non-compliant signs themselves. "If nobody comes out to retrieve that sign, our staff will pick [it] up… bring it back to our operations center in Panama City and we will hold those for about thirty days," he said.
A few dozen confiscated signs were in the FDOT's maintenance yard Monday afternoon, but Satter said it's a small number compared to the total number of signs lining area roadways. "Most of our campaign offices have been very compliant," he said.