Roadside Memorials: Homage or Hazard?

You see them every day, on the freeway or the boulevard near your home. Countless small white crosses and floral bouquets dot the country’s roadways, each a stark reminder of a life that ended there.

Maybe you heard about the accident on the evening news, and now you recall the tragedy every time you pass the makeshift memorial. Or perhaps you say a silent prayer as you wonder who the victim was and what happened at that location. Either way, the memorial has served its purpose: to tell passersby about someone’s husband or wife, mother or father, friend or neighbor who died on that spot.

Grief Therapy for Survivors

Roadside memorials can be therapeutic for survivors, according to E. Jean Scully, psychotherapist, bereavement counselor and retired professor at the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University. Scully states, “When a loved one is violently taken, it leaves you unable to say goodbye . . . and creates a helpless need to connect to that spot.”

Jackie Quiram would agree. When Jackie’s best friend, Liz Brick, was killed in a car accident, Jackie wanted to mark the spot where Liz died, but she couldn’t find a suitable cross for the purpose. Jackie finally made her own weather-resistant oak cross, attached artificial flowers and a framed photo of Liz, and placed the memorial at the scene of Liz’s accident. Months later, Jackie launched Roadside Memorials to make the crosses available to other mourners.

Highway Safety Headache

These simple, poignant reminders of lives suddenly ended are not without critics, however. As roadside memorials become more common, some states, such as Texas and West Virginia, have taken measures to ban them.

Most recently, the family of a Florida teenager who died in a train accident was informed that they’d have to remove a roadside memorial honoring their son. Florida Department of Transportation officials claim the memorials cause safety hazards and hinder mowing operations.

Comments (5)

BillJanuary 19th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I totally understand people setting up a roadside memorial for a loved one. I think it’s great if it’s all done in good taste and it’s not done in a way that it is not a distraction to other drivers. There’s a certain roadside memorial that I drive by often that has a solar light there; it’s next to the road and at night it can be distracting to see while driving by it.

AngMay 11th, 2010 at 6:42 am

this is absolutely ridiculous… people should be allowed to have their memorials on the roads… its a reminder of someone who died… thats like saying graveyards are a distraction and the mowing operation is a pathetic excuse to ban them, you might as well rip out all the trees in the area to make mowing easier…. people really need to get over themselves

CarolynDecember 30th, 2010 at 5:45 am

When I see one of these memorials, it reminds me how important it is to drive safely.

JohnMarch 28th, 2011 at 11:39 am

This is absolutely ridiculous… People should not be allowed to have their memorials on the roads. They are complete eyesores. What if everyone did that? The highways would soon become littered with these ghoulish, trashy looking things. Why not pay your respects at the cemetery where your loved one was actually buried? Those things are very ghetto.

brianMay 13th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

they help save lives

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