Right of Way Wrongs
Innocent obstructions can become dangerous to the travelling public as well as costly to the landowners who put it there. Public right of ways along roads are there for a reason. Not only do they provide an area for public utilities to be located, but they also are designed to provide adequate space for vehicles to safely drive off the roadway to avoid a crash or other potentially dangerous situations. Placing an item into that right of way can result in serious injury and even death in some cases.
The most common obstruction placed in the right of way are “beefed up” mailbox stands. We commonly see people placing a masonry or even heavy steel posts that provides a sturdy base to hold their mailbox, when what actually occurs is a solid obstruction being placed dangerously close to the roadway where it could easily be struck by a passing motorist. Guard rail posts, signposts, and other legally placed items in the right of way have cuts or holes placed in them at the base so that when struck by a car, they easily breakaway and minimize the damage to the car, and more importantly, injury to the occupants. Replacing a sign post or guard rail is less expensive than the resulting medical bills and potential legal liability that comes with putting dangerous items in the right of way. As the old saying goes, we can replace sign posts and guard rails all day long, but we can’t replace a human life!
Dickinson County does not allow obstructions in the public right-of-way. As a matter of fact, it is a violation of Kansas law to place items in the right-of-way that pose a danger to the public. Farming the right-of-way or otherwise obstructing the ditch whereby preventing it from being able to flow water is also a violation of Kansas law, and is not allowed. As a matter of procedure, when situations like these are discovered, the first step taken is to notify the land owner of the obstruction and request that the obstruction be removed immediately, allowing the responsible party the opportunity to remove the hazard. If that does not result in immediate action, county personnel will then be forced to remove the item. A bill for the costs of removing the hazard is then sent to the landowner.