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A postal paradox

  1. Dec 10, 2011 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    This came up today and is an actual dilemma for me and a lot of other people, apparently. We haven't had problems but a lot of other people have and a friend asked about it. In rural areas especially, mail theft is a big problem at times [as well as mailbox smashing]. Some people opt to put in a mailbox like a tank mounted on the Rock of Gibralter. But the problem is that these are not legal. Only US Postal approved boxes may be used, and more importantly, they are supposed to be a breakaway design to prevent serious injuries if hit by a car - they are sitting right along the road so they do pose a hazard. Now it seems that no one really enforces any laws here as long the box meets the postal code, but by putting in a bullet-proof box, you are potentially putting others at risk and could be held liable if the worst happens. However, that is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally unlikely. What is far more likely by probably many orders of magnitude, is mail theft.

    Would you leave your mail at risk, or take a chance that the long odds of an accident will never catch you.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2011 #2
    When I had a rural mailbox I also had a post office box.

    My rural mailbox got smashed anyway.

    Nice place, the United States.
     
  4. Dec 10, 2011 #3

    DaveC426913

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    Seems to me there's a principle here. The postal service has a responsibility to "continuity of custody". Until your mail is on your private property, it remains the postal service's responsibility.

    Putting your mail in an exposed mailbox on public property* in an unsecured location is no better than leaving it on a park bench and expecting you to come by to pick it up.

    *(it is on public property is it not? Cuz if it's not - if it is technically on your private property, then you should have the right to secure it any way you see fit.)

    Obviously they can't and won't live up to that responsibility, but seems to me that's the principle here.

    In short: the postal service has not actually delivered your mail to you; they've abandoned it.
     
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4
    My grandmother called the post office and informed them that she is no longer able to walk out to the mailbox to collect the mail, and that she installed a mailbox on her front door, which is something like a quarter mile from the original box location up the driveway. Now the mail carrier drives up to her door to deliver the mail.

    Seems like the post office is more than willing (at least from my experience) to work with you. Rather than potentially break the law by installing a non-breakaway box (if that's even a law, I don't know really), have you tried calling them and discussing the matter?
     
  6. Dec 11, 2011 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Technically you may be right. Technically, the box sits on the county property via the road rightaway. They automatically get so many feet along the roadside and the boxes sit in that area. Not to say much can be done about it, but it really isn't on my property.

    They can probably just avoid the issue by offering a PO Box, which is very impractical for us.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  7. Dec 11, 2011 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes, we've been here over twenty years and have looked into it a couple of times. Most people just do what they want. Again, the actual boxes still have to be postal approved, but no one really worries about how they're mounted. Civil liabiity and the potential for injuries are the real concerns.
     
  8. Dec 11, 2011 #7

    DaveC426913

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    It would be interesting to explore a class action lawsuit in an attempt to shed some light on the problem.


    (Actually, hm, it won't get far. The post boxes are the property of the postal service. They're not abandoning the mail in a public place.)
     
  9. Dec 11, 2011 #8
    There are all sorts of lockable post office boxes.

    http://www.nationalmailboxes.com/roadside-mailboxes.html

    You can build a breakaway post by drilling 2 - 1.5in holes in a 4x4 pressure treated post. This is what DOT does for their signs on highways.

    When I was a kid, my parents had a problem with mail theft. They notified the USPS, who took it seriously, and got a PO box. They eventually caught the person.
     
  10. Dec 11, 2011 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Oooooh, that is a really interesting point. There is nothing that I've seen that clearly indicates that only the specified posts are acceptable. As long as it meets the DOT standards, liablity should be minimized. And a 4x4 post with holes is still far too hefty for the typical driveby smashing. You still can't mount an iron tank on the post, but at least that might take care of the post problem. I guess the next concern would be how to prevent a massive box from going through the windshield on impact.

    Funny, I never considered engineering the problem.
     
  11. Dec 11, 2011 #10

    turbo

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    My rural mail-box is located in the town's right-of-way, as is everybody else's on this road, since they claim everything within 33 feet of the centerline of the road. Is it an obstruction or a hazard? Probably. It is mounted on a piece of iron pipe, and like everything else the original owner left here, it is probably over-built and is possibly sunk into a hole filled with concrete (who knows how deep!). I have nudged that pipe with my tractor while removing snow, and that sucker ain't going anywhere!
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  12. Dec 11, 2011 #11

    Astronuc

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    We live on a curve of a busy street. My mail box has almost been hit by someone not making the curve. The tires marks just missed the mail box and went across our driveway and the next door's driveway. Two of our trees (one has been removed) bear scars from cars hitting them, although that has not happened since we have been living here. In another incident, there was a car that drove onto the shoulder by our mailbox, over-corrected and spun 180, and traveled backwards into the utility pole across the street. And there was a horrific head-on collision where some young driver went tangent to the curve and crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Both cars were traveling at about 45 mph, and both cars were totaled.

    The mail box of the next door neighbor has been hit by a car, which went tangent to the curve and plowed into a bush further on, and the mail box has been vandalized.
     
  13. Dec 11, 2011 #12
    I've fished my floating mailbox out of the community pond before (rubbermaid plastic and it did float)
    Number 1 son totalled a mailbox back when phonebooks actually had useful information in them and I had him call the person and ask how much to replace it. He then put the cash in the guys new mailbox. (I was with him when he did it). Owner was very surprised when he called.

    I wonder about using a big spring for the post or something like it that would just pop back up after being hit.

    These morons don't just go after mailboxes though. A former student was riding his bicycle and got hit in the head with a baseball bat by someone in a passing car. He did survive but he sure wears a helmet now.

    I recently bought a small rural farm and the post was put in by a sheriff, the former owner. totally illegal piece of steel beam with a welded plate on top. Wonder if I could claim ignorance if somebody wrecks their car hitting it.
     
  14. Dec 11, 2011 #13
    I used to live in a rural area. We had a problem with our mail being stolen. We contacted the police department (all two officers.. :P) and they lent us some cameras to catch the culprit on film. Turns out it was a field mouse who thought our box was a cozy nest. A roofing shingle over his entry hole put a stop to that.

    As for a rock-of-gibralter anti-theft mail box being a potential road hazard, how about making a special pull-off for the mailman to pull just a little bit more off the road? As long as it was smooth, stable, and easily accessible, I don't see why anyone would mind. And the further you get your box back from the road, the less chance you have for an accident. You'd definitely have to shovel it in the winter though.

    Last year we got a new mailman. He hit our mail box. Then it was saggy. Six months later we got a notice from the post office demanding that we fix five (at least) problems with our mailbox immediately. Seems like they forgot who messed it up.. *grumble grumble*. And get this- one of the violations was that our number wasn't posted on our box. Well it was. At least used to be, on the inside flap. For ten years! When I marched out to the box to see for myself, the numbers were gone. Very suspicious. *grumble grumble*
     
  15. Dec 11, 2011 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    Not rightaway? :rofl: I was really getting tired. I didn't even notice that until this morning.
     
  16. Dec 11, 2011 #15
    Or you can invite postman to a coffee/lunch or so ... Every time he thinks he has something valuable, he would just come over for a coffee than just dropping it in the mailbox.
     
  17. Dec 11, 2011 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    A good idea but we don't have enough room. We live on a hill.

    Also, I think the PO requires that the box be located where it is.
     
  18. Dec 11, 2011 #17

    BobG

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    Could you be held liable if the trees planted on the devil strip didn't have break-away trunks?

    Mailboxes actually overlap two different domains: the USPS and the Federal Highway Administration or other traffic organization for your area.

    The USPS only talks about the mailbox, itself, and the location of the mailbox (of course, the recommended location is impossible on my street, since that would put it in the middle of the sidewalk, as I have no devil strip).

    The FHA recommends a break-away post.

    I don't think a homeowner could be liable for someone driving their car off-road in a residential area. It might be considerate to make sure your mailbox doesn't punish drunk drivers, but it's not illegal to build the bunker style mailboxes that are nearly impossible to knock down.
     
  19. Dec 11, 2011 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    They don't allow trees in the "devil strip" here.

    The first rule is that anyone can sue anyone for anything. But if it can be shown that the box was a hazard, you can be sure that a lawsuit would be quick to follow.

    I was specifically warned about this by the post office - the box cannot be a road hazard.
     
  20. Dec 11, 2011 #19
    And actually regarding the trees, apparently so because many trees were cut down in the median of the interstate and replaced by these cable guard rails. I'm guess the state or feds got sued when someone hit a tree.
     
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