VERIFY: When are roadside signs legal?

After a story WMAZ reported about roadside memorials earlier this week, a lot of you asked us if other roadside signs were legal or illegal.

We set out to Verify your questions about when road signs are legal, especially the political ones you probably saw while driving this fall.

To answer that question, we went straight to the source and talked to Kimberly Larson with the Georgia Department of Transportation and we checked Georgia code.

We found that it's not a question about what's on your sign, it's about where it is.

Katlyn LaHood says she drives in Warner Robins every day. We asked what kind of signs she sees.

“Right now I'm definitely seeing a lot of the political ads, stuff like that, maybe if there's a new restaurant around I'll see a sign for that, that's really about it,” LaHood said while watching her daughter play at Fountain Park.

Those signs are illegal, unless they're placed correctly, according to Kimberly Larson with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Larson says they must be placed outside the right of way, which she says often means farther back than utility poles that line the streets.

So, we verified that a sign for your yard sale, campaign, or lunch hour special is legal only if it's outside the right of way.

If they're too close to state roads and interstates, the state Department of Transportation can remove them.

“That's a little surprising but I guess I could see why. It might make someone worried if they saw that then they're like 'oh gosh' and they might over correct or something like that. But, it's kind of surprising that it's illegal,” LaHood said.

She says they're not distracting to her, but she understands the need for the law.

But mom and frequent driver Tammy Marshall says roadside signs pale in comparison to other distractions.

“The cellphone, or the drinks people are handling, or the food they're trying to eat they just got through the drive thru. Or, the makeup they're trying to put on on the way to work. So, I think there's a lot of things much more distracting than signs on the side of the road. Kids in the backseat!” Marshall said.

Marshall was also surprised to hear the signs were illegal if placed incorrectly.

So if you run for office, place your sign correctly so you don't end up on the wrong side of the law and the road.

Larson directed us to Georgia Code section 32-6-51, which says, “It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, place or maintain within the right of way of any public road any sign, signal or other device except as authorized by subsection (d) of this Code section.”

She said GDOT often removes hundreds of political signs each election year. However, they hold onto those signs for 30 days so the owners can come back and claim them. Otherwise, they are destroyed.

Larson suggested anyone placing signs contact their local GDOT office to make sure they know where right of way limitations end.

VERIFY SOURCES

Kimberly Larson, Georgia Department of Transportation 

Georgia Department of Transportation 

VERIFY RESOURCES

Georgia Code 32-6-51

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