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Soliciting of motorists on public highways is illegal

June 4, 2011

As vice-chairman of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board and author of the "Did You Know" articles, I, along with other Board members, are often queried about various vehicle and traffic laws and of unsafe actions by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. This is an important way in which we receive ideas for topics to discuss in these articles. Questions about "boot drives" by local volunteer fire departments prompted this week's article on "solicitation on public highways."

The practice of "boot drives", where members of a fire department stand in the middle of a road soliciting donations, is unsafe, illegal, and creates a liability for the department doing the drive. It is inherently unsafe to stand in the middle of the road. It creates a liability in that if a collision happens because of the activity (either directly involving participants, or between vehicles stopped or slowing because of the activity), the persons involved and the department sponsoring the drive could be liable because the drive is illegal, and was the cause of the collision.

Article 1157(a) of Vehicle and Traffic Law provides: "No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, or to solicit from or sell to an occupant of any vehicle." A volunteer who stands in the roadway of a local, county or state highway to solicit donations from passing motorists is in violation of this statute and may be fined up to $150 and/or jailed up to 15 days for the first offense.

Article 1157(c) stipulates that "No person shall occupy any part of a State highway, except in a city or village, in any manner for the purpose of selling or soliciting." Although this seems to allow soliciting on a state road in a village, it doesn't.

It is always a violation of Section 1157(a) to solicit, including boot drives, while occupying any street or roadway in New York State. While 1157(c) does make an exemption for soliciting on a State highway within a city or village, such solicitation must be conducted in the portion of the State highway exclusive of the portion of the roadway used for public travel. Simply put, on a local or county highway, a person may stand on the shoulder or on a sidewalk to solicit donations from passing motorists, but on any state highway, except in a city or village, a person may not even stand on a shoulder or sidewalk to solicit donations from passing motorists. On state highways within the village limits of Malone, Chateaugay, Brushton, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, similar to a local or county highway, solicitors may be within the state right-of-way but not within the traveled portion of the highway.

This "Did You Know" article is primarily addressing "boot drives." However, article 1157 also applies to soliciting a ride (hitchhiking), or approaching motorists for the purpose of selling something.

Although compliance with 1157 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, unfortunately, may have a negative affect on our volunteer fire departments, the safety of the volunteers and of the motorists must override the monetary benefit to the fire departments. A safer and lawful way to conduct boot drives is to allow motorists wishing to contribute to drive into a parking lot adjacent to the highway, and pass the "boot" in an area off the highway.

This and all previous Did You Know articles may be found on the Franklin County website at


Dave Werner can be reached at



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