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Churning blades slice through icy snow as Don Sears of Beekmantown works to dig his home out from Sunday-s snowstorm. Municipal crews and local residents spent Sunday and Monday trying to dig out.

MALONE -- Who hasn't griped about highway plows refilling the end of a driveway with snow shortly after it has been cleared?

Bundling up against the cold and heading off with a shovel, snowblower or personal plow to redo the job is second nature to North Country residents.

But highway-maintenance and safety officials are reminding those shovelers, blowers and plowers that if they dump snow back onto the highway, they could be ticketed and sued.

"I don't think people realize that if they put snow back on the road and there is an accident and (the victim) can prove you put snow out there, you are liable," said Peru Town Highway Superintendent Robert Timmons.

"A lot of people don't realize they are creating a hazard."

UNSAFE CONDITIONS

According to David Werner, vice chairman of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board, the state's Vehicle and Traffic Law makes it illegal to plow, shovel or use a snowblower to put snow in a street or highway.

The same law applies to glass or other items that could injure a person, animal or vehicle on the highway, according to the State Department of Transportation.

"Snow and ice left on or along the highway creates unsafe driving conditions and safety concerns, including limited-sight distance, impact hazards and drainage concerns," DOT regulations state.

"Failure to remove deposited snow and ice could result in accidents the property owner may be liable for," DOT says.

And the law goes further, stating that people who hire someone for snow removal and allow them to place snow back on the roadway could be ticketed.

The fine for the first offense is $100 and/or 15 days in county jail plus court surcharges.

MAILBOXES HIT

In addition to refilling cleared driveways, property owners also complain about the battering their mailboxes take at the hands of plow operators.

But Peru Superintendent Timmons said placement of the boxes is part of the problem.

Mailboxes are usually installed in nice weather, he said, and there are no exact setback requirements, so property owners use their best guess to place them.

But when the snow flies and road passage is narrowed, mailboxes are often smacked around.

"Our plows are 15 feet wide from the tip of the plow to the tip of the wing," Timmons said. "If a mailbox is closer to the center line than 15 feet, it's in jeopardy of getting hit. We're going to hit the mailbox if it's a choice between it and a car."

DOT offers a pamphlet explaining that homeowners can do little if their mailbox is damaged.

"It is an unintended consequence of providing safe driving conditions," the booklet states. "There is no statutory or legal responsibility which grants a property owner any right to place a mailbox within a right-of-way."

Property owners aren't prohibited from placing a roadside mailbox there, but they do so at their own expense.

"No liability results on the part of the public official charged with the duty of snow removal if such a box is so placed that it may be injured by proper highway maintenance," DOT rules state.

draymo@pressrepublican.com

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