The St. Lawrence County Department of Highways would like to remind property owners that during the winter months, snow and ice removal is the priority operation for maintenance forces. While it is unfortunate that encounters with rural delivery mail boxes occur, it is an unintended consequence of providing safe driving conditions for those traveling along maintained routes.
Property owners occasionally contact the Department requesting that they be reimbursed for damaged or broken mail boxes. While any damage is an unintended consequence of clearing snow and ice, there is no statutory or legal responsibility which grants a property owner any right to place a mailbox within the Right-of-Way. While property owners’ may have an informal license, this does not endow the owner of the mailbox any legal rights in the highway when needed for highway purposes.
Highway Law Section 319 supports this policy as does an opinion from the Attorney General stating that, “The owner has no right to interfere with the speedy and efficient removal of snow by placing the mailbox in such a position as to cause this result, and no liability results on the part of the public official charged with the duty on snow removal if such box is so placed that it may be injured by proper highway maintenance.” Property owners’ may reduce the risk of mailbox damage due to snow and ice removal by ensuring their mailbox is properly erected. The US Postal Service may be consulted for general mailbox guidelines.
The Department appreciates your understanding in this matter and would like to remind all property owners that clearing the highways of snow and ice during the winter months is done with the intent of providing safe passage for motorists who use the transportation system. The Department undertakes this mission so that everyone may travel safe, well maintained highways during the North Country winters.
Snow Removal Responsibilities
The St. Lawrence County Department of Highways would like to remind property owners that during the winter months, snow and ice should not be deposited or stockpiled on or along the highway as this activity poses a hazard to pedestrians and motorists alike. Snow and ice left on or along the highway creates unsafe driving conditions and safety concerns including; limited site distance, impact hazards, and drainage concerns. Failure to remove deposited snow and ice could result in accidents the property owner may be liable for. Failure to remove deposited snow and ice is also a violation of Section 1219 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law – Putting glass or other injurious substances on highway prohibited.
Winter snow storage along pedestrian routes poses particular safety issues. The storage of snow along sidewalks and other roadside appurtenances results in poor visibility for pedestrians and motorists. It is the Department's wish to educate property owners as to their responsibility and to ensure safe highway conditions for all who use them.