Unauthorized signs prohibited on public roadways

Unauthorized signs, often appearing as a “street sign” with the property owner’s name on it, such as “Stanley St.” at the end of the driveway to the Stanley homestead, are becoming more popular to identify the entrance to someone’s house or business, often associated with a lengthy driveway. These signs can be purchased at various sign shops and look just like the signs that appear on corners of cities and villages throughout the nation. However, these signs are unauthorized and if they are on the public right-of-way or are in view of any highway are illegal.

Section 1114 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law addresses the “Display of unauthorized signs, signals, or markings.” Paragraph (a) prohibits the placement of any “sign, signal, marking or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles or is likely to be construed as an official traffic-control device” upon or in view of any highway unless authorized by the municipality having jurisdiction of traffic control devices. Traffic control devices include all signals, signs (including street signs), and pavement markings.

Paragraph (b) prohibits the placement of any sign within the public right of way bearing any commercial advertising. It also prohibits any public authority to permit any signs with advertising to be placed on any highway.

Paragraph (c) declares any such prohibited sign, signal, or marking to be a public nuisance and any police officer or public authority is empowered by law to remove such sign or cause it to be removed.

Another placement and use of signs that is illegal but quite commonly found in the North Country, especially in St. Lawrence County, is the use of the “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign to mark their driveways. This use is also prohibited under V&T Law, section 375 (36) (c), which prohibits the use of the “Slow Moving Vehicle” emblem as a clearance marker or on stationary objects.

Section 1680 of V&T Law is also relevant to the above laws. In short, this section mandates that New York state maintain a manual and specifications for a uniform system of traffic control devices that conform to nationally accepted standards, more explicitly the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This section also applies to all municipalities with a population of less than 1 million people (the entire state except for New York City), requiring them to follow the MUTCD and prohibiting any municipality from fabricating or purchasing any traffic control device that does not conform to the current MUTCD. This law further prohibits any person, firm, association or corporation from selling, leasing, or offering for sale any traffic control device that does not conform to the MTCD.

A conviction of violating the laws described in this article carries fines up to $150 plus applicable surcharges for the first offense.

For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments.