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Highway Cross Memorials Really a Problem?

We had a recent case around here where one of those memorials with crosses (a makeshift memorial of a fatal auto accident) was removed, mysteriously, but then revealed it was pretty much DOT and the cops, saying it was a hazard because it was a distraction.

You can guess the outrage.

As for me, it makes me sit up at attention and drive right. My personal observation is that they're good. If somebody is starting to go "hothead" in traffic and then sees that, it might make them think and calm them down a bit.

What's your take on it?


  • take 'em down. To me they're annoying. I'll bet that family has already eulogized that person to the hilt already, too.

    "Let the dead bury their dead, but as for you..."

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,274
    ...Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia has so many of those memorials it looks like a cemetary on the shoulder. The road is a horrible design that dates before the 1920s. The intersection at Grant and Roosevelt is perhaps the most dangerous in the country. Making a left turn anywhere in that intersection is pretty much a suicide mission.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    as someone keeps the flowers fresh? Who cares?

    Bureaucratic removal? Who cares?

    "Suit yourself; I'm easy..."
    Igor - Young Frankenstein
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    This is public land where these memorials are being erected. There must be laws and guidelines that limit what private citizens can do with public land. The fact that we sympathize with the grieving families doesn't mean they can make up their own laws. To me the proliferation of these displays is getting annoying. And they are becoming more elaborate where I live. Its almost like a competition. I can't use this land to make a personal statement and unless there is a law that makes exceptions where fatal accidents are concerned then these displays all need to be taken down.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I don't have a strong opinion either way.

    But it reminds me of a well publicized accident about 12 years ago when in the Washington DC area, a 17 year old girl who had received a BMW from her mother for her birthday, promptly wrapped it around a tree on River Road in Bethesda at 1:00 a.m. on a Friday night. Two girls were killed, one brain damaged.

    A "memorial" at the tree went up immediately and was maintained by her Potomac classmates for several months. At some point, someone else nailed a sign on the tree that read "Stupid Mother". It lasted about a day before being pulled down, but, harsh as it was, probably could have had at least as much of a positive impact in deterring future tragedies as the teddy bears and flowers.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    At some point, someone else nailed a sign on the tree that read "Stupid Mother". It lasted about a day before being pulled down

    Good point. Who gets to decide what is and isn't an acceptable message? As far as having a positive impact I'm not entirely sure that is the motivation behind these memorials. I think this is primarily a way that people are dealing with grief and it doesn't really make any sense it's just that they are imitating behaviour. Have you noticed how certain events trigger people to tie yellow ribbons around things? Again, it doesn't make sense but somehow people have been taught to think that it does. It turns out you can train people to behave in some pretty bizaare ways.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    One thing that becomes a problem is, how long should (if at all) the memorial be allowed to stay on the side of the road?

    There is a site I pass everyday where a couple on a motorcycle were killed in an accident, over a year ago. The memorial is still there, and does get "refreshed" from time to time. I often wonder just how long the family/friends plan on leaving this up. This particular one appears to be on private property, and I guess the owner is sympathetic enough to let it stay there.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    The only caveat I have about leaving the memorials is if they become a traffic hazard.

    In other words if they are located in such a way that people stopping to observe the memorial are putting themselves or other traffic in danger, then they should be removed.

    Other than that, those are a cathartic aid (and not in the laxative manner) for the survivors and should be left alone.
  • We kind of had the same deal here. Kids slammed into the broad side of stopped train. There was all this public outrage - Concerned parents wanted an investigation launched into the rail-crossing, other teenagers started to memorialize the spot, it was a horrible time - they were going to graduate (the kids killed).

    The one problem everybody seemed to gloss over was the kids were blind stumbling drunk doing speeds in the realm of sheer stupidity in the early morning hours....

    Sorry, a memorial at the spot would vicariously celebrate drunk driving. Teenagers and cars and alcohol - guar-un-teed death sentence!
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Other than that, those are a cathartic aid (and not in the laxative manner) for the survivors and should be left alone.

    I disagree. I'm not a psychologist but it seems to be that these are not memorials to the person but to their death. By erecting and maintaining these sites I believe you are adopting a pattern of behaviour that results in you dwelling on a tragedy longer than you otherwise would have. Life goes on.

    Where I live in So. Maryland many of these sites have been up for years and are getting more numerous. Is this perceived benefit the survivors are deriving more important than the real annoyance it is causing me. Why is it annoying? Because I view them as a form of litter. Not only that but most of these memorials have crosses. That is a religious symbol, which definitely does not belong on public land.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    tpe, "dwelling on the tragedy" is the emotional purging process. That's what the grief process is all about.

    Life does go on, but grief continues over time. Nothing can "hurry it along."
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    There's a small tree in the median of Interstate 64 which someone faithfully decorated for holidays... They'd put little American flags all over it for the 4th of July, and and little bunnies for Easter, etc.

    It was nice to see... however the DOT started taking them down based on the dubious logic that it was dangerous for whoever was doing it to cross the highway to get to the median....

  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,944
    Yes, but when did it become OK to put up personal monuments on what is often state- or federally-owned property? As someone else mentioned, who gets to decide what message is or is not acceptable?

    Before the cross-on-the-highway became en vogue, people seemed to manage their grief in other effective ways. How about putting the memorial in one's own front yard instead?


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  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    It became "OK" because it is commonly accepted. It's called giving the survivors a break.

    No one needs to decide "what message is acceptable." A memorial has basic ingredients and all of those are commonly accepted. The "Stupid Mother" sign broke the "commonly accepted" rules.

    Lots of things that are "technically not OK" become acceptable when we care about people's feelings.

    Most 9-11 memorials are on public land. There are still plenty of "Ten Commandment" monuments on public land around the USA. Why does it make a difference if it's the government who establishes the memorial or if it is an individual family?

    When did the cross-on-the-highway become "en vogue?" I'm 43 and I can remember seeing them as long as I have been on roads, even back in the 1970's.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Based on some of the feedback these memorials are not commonly accepted.

    Ten Commandment monuments are totally inapropriate on public land. I suspect that the only places you will see this is in states dominated by Conservative Christians. I wonder what would happen if someone erected a monument to Islam right next to one of these? Or better yet, a monument to Satanism. Afterall, who gets to decide what is and isn't an acceptable religion. Anyway, I doubt it would go over too well.

    9/11 memorials probably are on public land but had to go through some recognized approval process before being erected.

    As far as these memorials becoming en vogue I'd say it definitely happened in the last 15 years. I grew up and started driving in So. California and never saw one. I moved to So. Maryland 20 years ago and didn't see them back then. You can't drive 2 miles without seeing one now. I wonder what will happen when additional accidents occur at the same location. Maybe the survivors will work out some sort of time-sharing scheme.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "Or better yet, a monument to Satanism."

    ...If it also bothers you that your US currency is emblazened with "In God We Trust", feel free to send it my way. ;)
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    The cross memorials are without a doubt commonly accepted - the instances of people objecting to them is the exception to the rule.

    I still hold that they are completely acceptable as long as they do not affect traffic flow and safety.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,345
    I knew that we'd wind up at separation of church and state, and that's not what this discussion is supposed to be about.

    If we're done talking about the distraction hazard that roadside memorials may or may not pose, then I guess this has run its course.

    But let's not open up a VERY volatile can of worms that has nothing to do with safety onthe roads please.


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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    ...If it also bothers you that your US currency is emblazened with "In God We Trust", feel free to send it my way

    I rarely use cash. Regardless, a satanist would have no problem with the phrase "In God We Trust" because his god would be satan. The only reason phrases like this have withstood challenges is because the term "God" is construed to be generic. You can insert your own personal meaning or non-meaning for that term.

    A cross is not only a religious symbol but a symbol of Christianity. It absolutely should be illegal for this to be erected on anything but private land. If I had the time, money, and inclination I could challenge these roadside shrines on this basis and probably win. It might not make me too popular with the religious zealots and one only needs to watch the news to see how dangerous they can be.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    The cross memorials are without a doubt commonly accepted

    Really? What are you basing this absolute certainty on? In the last 2 days I've asked a half dozen co-workers what they thought about these roadside memorials. Every one of them kind of shrugged their shoulders and said that they don't understand them. A couple people that have kids added the comment that if their child ever died in an auto-accident that would be the last place they would ever want to visit. Maybe they don't posess your level of expertise when it comes to grief management.

    I'm all for trying to establish whether or not these displays are commonly accepted. I'd obviously vote no but its a democracy, right. I'd go with the flow. However if this is what the majority wants then some guidelines should established. Similar to what exists for political campaigns. Where I live you can use public land for this purpose but all signs needs to be removed within 5 days of the election.
  • I remember that! I was down there around in the nineties.
    Use to be around Newport News/Hampton VA. on I-64.

    I liked it - got a kick out of it. Sorry to see it gone. So they said it was a safety problem, for crying out loud, life in general is a safety problem - you never get out alive.
  • I agree that they're acceptable, even though I truly don't understand the mentality behind it.

    Here's the thing, though -- nine times out of ten, isn't setting one of these up going to be a significant hazard in and of itself? One or more cars on the shoulder, someone hammering a stake into the ground, flowers, the photo, the whole nine yards? I mean, it's only a matter of time before we hear about an eighteen-wheeler drifting off the road and plowing into a group of people installing a roadside memorial (if it hasn't happened already).

    I'm amazed by A. the sheer number of these things and B. some of the weird places where I see them. One of the closest to my house is off an ON-ramp from a local street onto a no-commercial-vehicle parkway. I can't figure out how that must've happened. And then there are the scary stretches of I-80 in eastern PA, where you seem to see them every quarter of a mile.
  • 1racefan1racefan Posts: 932
    I kind of understand the whole roadside memorial deal. But, I would never put one up myself for a loved one, and I believe they should only be allowed to remain for 30 days, and should have to be taken down.

    However, one trend that I don't understand is where people are now having decals made, to go on the back of their vehicles that say, "In Loving Memory of 'insert name here', 19xx-20xx".

    I could understand a sticker like this being placed on a custom car, if a father and son were building it together, and one died before it was completed. However, I am seeing more and more of these stickers on normal everyday cars. When I die, I don't want to be remembered by a sticker on the back of a relative/friend's Hyundai.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,345
    I mean, that's hard to say having never had a loved one die in a traffic accident, but I tend to move on fairly rapidly and prefer to remember how people were, not how they died.

    We had afatal accident just a mile from my house a few years ago that I just missed having a chance to be involved in. The only reason that I wasn't the car going through the intersection at a high rate of speed was that the car that did was going sofast that they prevented me from pulling out of my street. I had to wait as they sped ahead and were hit by someone at a crossroads.I came upon the scene maybe 10 seconds after it happened.

    Long story short, the car withthe fatalitywas going 60 in a 30 zone, came to an intersection where someone unfamiliar with the area was trying to find their way and drove through a difficult to see stop sign and t-boned them.

    A roadside memorial was erected with fresh flowers, etc. The township had relocated the stop sign toa more prominent place afterwards, and made it the biggest stopsign I've ever seen, but approaching that stop sign your attention was definitely drawn to the floral display since it was this burst of color and "stuff" in fairly barren swampy ground.
    Quite a few people were concerened about it as a distraction and it eventually disappeared.


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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Well remember when the "Baby On Board" signs were popular? Thankfully it finally sunk in to most people how ridiculous the whole idea was. Were we supposed to read these signs and choose to have an accident with another vehicle? Who knows what motivates people to do some things but a good percentage definitely have the sheep mentality and enjoy being part of a trend. I've seen these "Loving Memory" decals and can't grasp the rational behind them. Is it that these people consider a decal on a vehicle to be the highest expression of love? At least it's their vehicle so it represents private property. As such they can use it to make whatever statement they want.

    There is one of these memorials a few blocks from where I work. A couple weeks ago it was decorated with a bunch of tacky inflatable foil balloons. It's all now deflated and tattered and looks like crap; not that it looked good to begin with. It's pure size makes it more of an eyesore than a paper cup that you'd get fined $1000 for throwing out your window. Maybe we need to have some style committee that reviews these sites.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,345
    Guy was riding a bicycle along a road and struck and killed by a guy who was legally blind yet still driving. Very tragic, and the victim was very well liked. But what purpose does it serve to have a bicycle that's entirely painted white chained to a guard rail at the spot more than a year later?

    It's not part of my makeup to dwell on that kind of thing forever.


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  • cccompsoncccompson Posts: 2,388
    Don't know about other states but Ohio has gotten into the habit of naming freeways after state highway patrol officers killed in the line of duty on the road. They seems to erect the sign right where the officer died.
  • why do we need to see these goofy memorials all over the roadsides and now as decals on cars?

    Looking at it another way...who says your loved one is worth more than my loved one after they die? A person is worth about the same amount as another person. Not one iota more. It's this "me" generation now and Donald Trump and Britney Sneers that actually think they are worth more than other people, when we all know(or should know)they're not.

    I agree..make these eyesores go away - now.

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  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,345
    I've removed the off topic stuff that just cropped up. Let's try to avoid making these discussions personal please.

    Seems as though we maybe done with this subject.


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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Don't know about other states but Ohio has gotten into the habit of naming freeways after state highway patrol officers killed in the line of duty on the road.

    Well thankfully they don't do this in Maryland. I'm curious, how many freeways are there in Ohio? Seems like you'd eventually run out and only be able to name a lane after an officer or maybe an offramp. After that you'd probably have to get down to naming those little bumps that separate lanes but that's well in the future. Basically I don't understand this fascination with memorials. What does it accomplish?
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