Safety sign vandals risk public safety, criminal prosecution

The Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol are warning would-be vandals that tampering with a roadway safety sign is a crime.

The Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol are warning would-be vandals that tampering with a roadway safety sign is a crime.

Last week, a portable electronic message sign within a WSDOT construction zone was re-programmed, prompting WSDOT to issue a safety warning and review security measures on its signs and signs owned by contractors.

“This is an issue that poses a potential danger to the traveling public and our crews,” said WSDOT Chief Engineer Jerry Lenzi. “Drivers are in jeopardy because these signs notify them of potential hazards up ahead. For example they could encounter construction equipment or conditions and be seriously injured or killed. Our crews rely on these signs to direct traffic through the work zone to help keep them and the motoring public safe.”

The single incident in Washington occurred when a control box of a portable message sign adjacent to the roadway was broken into by vandals who created the unauthorized message.

The messages on portable construction signs are individually programmed at the job site and are not connected to a central computer network.

The incident is similar to other incidents in Texas and Illinois that occurred earlier this week.

The unauthorized message was first noticed by a state trooper who immediately recognized the danger and notified WSDOT. The message was quickly corrected and WSDOT alerted its maintenance and contractor crews of the potential for this problem at other work locations.

“These people risk potential felony charges,” said WSP Captain Jeff DeVere. “These signs convey important safety information and we do not consider this a harmless prank.”

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