BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Someone has once again changed the message on a roadside sign along the 198. Earlier this week, a prankster got to the keyboard on the sign to change the message to “It’s all a dream”. Overnight, it happened again.
This time, the message was changed to “I love you”. It stayed that way for several hours before NITTEC remotely shut the sign down.
A lot of people who saw the message before that, though, said they loved what they saw. “It kind of made me like happy,” said Kegan Stanchak, a Buffalo resident who ran by the sign as she was jogging in Delaware Park Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! What an uplifting thing when there’s so much negativity going on.'”
“I think it’s pretty funny. I think it’s harmless fun and I think these days, people take things a little too seriously,” agreed another runner, Brian Goldsmith.
“I love it,” said Tom Slon, “It’s great. Why not?”
Well, there a few reasons why it’s not great, according to State Police. For one thing, the signs are supposed to show important safety messages, and the “I love you” message during the Tuesday commute could be a dangerous distraction for drivers. “Even during my run, I was like Whoa!” Stanchak admitted.
On top of that, though, changing the signs is against the law. “Whenever anyone takes it upon themselves to either mess with, remove, vandalize or replace a sign that’s not supposed to be there, or change an electronic sign to say something other than what it is specified to say, you will get arrested, and there is a crime involved with that,” explained James O’Callaghan, Public Information Officer for Troop A of the New York State Police.
Changing the signs could be considered criminal mischief, tampering, and trespassing, which could carry a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
A lot of people who saw the “I love you” sign on Tuesday said they hoped this prankster would get a pass. “At least it’s something nice, I guess,” said Buffalo resident Melina Buck.
A few weeks ago, someone changed the sign to say something not so nice. Motorists complained after seeing the new message containing profanity.
NITTEC remotely shuts down the signs when motorists complain, as they did Monday and Tuesday morning this week.
NITTEC reps say they operate the signs on behalf of a contractor who works for the DOT. The DOT has contacted the contractor about the problem, because it is the contractor’s responsibility to make sure the keyboard panel is fully locked.
“I am surprised someone could so easily change it,” Buck said. “I mean it’s kind of funny, but it’s probably not the best thing to be doing if it’s a useful sign.”
State Police say a person who changes the sign is not only looking at criminal charges, they are also opening themselves up to a civil suit if someone were hurt as a result.