Do Mailboxes Have To Be Breakaway? (Explained)

Unless you live in a place with cluster mailboxes, the design and look of the mailbox at the end of your driveway is largely up to you.

While there are some regulations about how close they need to be to the road, this is mainly to ensure that the mail carrier easily gets the mail into your mailbox.

What’s the policy on ensuring everyone’s safety in the event of a car crash?

A Mailbox Should Break Away

Breakaway mailboxes refer to mailboxes that will give way to a car without injuring anyone in the vehicle or causing a lot of damage to the vehicle. The mailbox should fall away easily in the event of a car accident to keep drivers safe. However, they’re not legally required everywhere.

What is a Breakaway Mailbox?

This term describes a style of mailbox designed with safety in mind.

The term “breakaway mailbox” is a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t so much the mailbox that needs to be breakaway but rather the mailbox post. Essentially, a mailbox should be designed so that it doesn’t cause a risk to a driver who might hit it.

In the scenario of a driver vs. mailbox, the driver is supposed to win with relatively little damage done to the car. The mailbox and its post should easily break away from the force of the car.

Such a standard will also protect other people or items that may hit your mailbox, such as the wintertime snowplow or a carefree kid on their bike or rollerblades.

Not everyone lives in an area where they’ll need to worry about the snowplow coming around and plowing down their mailbox, but several companies have come up with a solution in those snowy, icy areas.

A Return-to-Center Mailbox Posts

Put your mailbox on a swivel to protect it.

Snowplows get pretty near to the curb, and when they do, they can take out the mailbox that’s unfortunate enough to be in their path. However, no one wants to rebuild their mailbox every year, so some enterprising designers put gravity to work for them.

In return-to-center mailbox posts, the mailbox can swing 360 degrees when struck with enough force. The design of the post ensures that the mailbox will return to its proper position after it has been pushed out of the way.

The beauty of this design is that you can check the mail without standing on the road. Swivel your box around, grab the mail, and release the mailbox to its road-centered position.

What are Breakaway Mailboxes Made Of?

Most retailers sell breakaway mailboxes in a variety of materials.

Generally, the post of a breakaway mailbox is wood or metal. They can also be made of plastic, easier to maintain for many homeowners.

The mailbox itself is usually made of metal or plastic.

Some may have custom-made wooden mailboxes, but you have to apply for a permit to build a custom mailbox in most places. In that case, the permitting office will advise you of any breakaway requirements in your area.

How Sturdy are Breakaway Mailboxes?

A breakaway mailbox is plenty sturdy for day-to-day life.

If you keep the post in good condition, your mailbox will resist most normal weather conditions and daily mail delivery. 

It might even survive a collision with a bicycler or runner.

How do I know if My Mailbox is Breakaway?

Follow these guidelines.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, a wooden post that is 4 inches by 4 inches buried no more than two feet deep into the ground will give away to a car. If you prefer steel or aluminum, go for a pipe that’s 2 inches or less in diameter.

A plastic mailbox and post will certainly yield to a car and be considered a breakaway. This also means that you shouldn’t add bricks around your mailbox or insert your mailbox into a structure designed to make it indestructible, such as a five-gallon bucket of concrete.

Another key element of a breakaway mailbox is that the mailbox and the support post are secured together to survive the impact without coming apart. The term does not indicate that the pieces will break away.

A flying mailbox would certainly pose a hazard in a car accident, so it’s important to keep all the parts of your mailbox in good shape.

Are Breakaway Mailboxes Legally Required?

Always check your local laws.

Whether you’re required to have a breakaway mailbox is largely left up to local ordinance. It’s always best to check with your local postmaster to see what laws you have in your area regarding mailbox construction. 

It’s also good to be away from changes in laws and local ordinances that will affect you. Suppose you currently have a bricked mailbox and your local government decides to require breakaway mailboxes.

They will also determine if all non-breakaway mailboxes will have to be replaced right away or if only new mailboxes will be breakaway.

If it’s determined that your mailbox needs to be replaced, but you don’t get around to it, you could face the consequences later down the line.

Are There Consequences to Not Having a Breakaway Mailbox?

You could face fines and legal liability if you don’t have a breakaway mailbox.

If you live in an area with an ordinance, you could pay additional fines. Many mailbox installers and retailers won’t carry anything that would violate the ordinance in those areas.

If that happened and someone did strike your mailbox, you could be liable for any damage done to their vehicle, any injury they sustained, or their family could sue you in the event of their death.

A brick-encased mailbox may look nice, but it isn’t worth it.


It’s One Tough Mailbox System | Return-to-Center

Mailbox Supports | USPS