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Highway Cross Memorials Really a Problem?



  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    I think there has been a national trend over the last couple of decades to SHARE our pain with the general public (I call it the "Oprah Syndrone"). For some strange reason, more and more folks simply CAN'T keep their grief private, and the need to express themselves publically takes many forms (from the roadside memorials to decals on cars).

    Look at the number of daytime shows which are essentially DEVOTED to broadcasting human trainwreck stories and the never ending supply of tragic figures EAGER to share their misfortune with millions of viewers. I remember clearly the story from just a month or so ago about the young boy who was a kidnapping victim who had been held for 4 years. Within 48 hours of his release from what ever sick experiences he'd endured, he was on Oprah. Is this healthy? Do we as the American public REALLY need to wallow in this?

    I can understand grief. I can understand the need to get support from family and close friends. I DON'T understand the 'need' some folks have to share their grief with total it really healthy or is it just a way for some folks to get their 15 minutes.....
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 64,727
    I just don't get why you erect a memorial at the place the person died.. It seems kind of morbid.

    If he fell off the roof, would you leave the ladder up with a bouquet on it?

    If he died on the toilet, would you drop a little plastic wreath in the bowl?

    How about if he slipped on a wet floor at Wal-Mart? A cross with flowers in Aisle 6?

    Plus, as mentioned above... many, many times.. it is a memorial to the poor deceased's own stupidity.

    I'm all for grieving, even publicly if it helps... but, roadside memorials seem over the top, especially the ones that are constantly maintained over time.



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  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    That's a good point, and it stimulated this thought:

    Most of these people are YOUNG people who have died, many of them under 25 and an usually high number of teens. Many or most of them (I would bet) were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident, due in part to the aura of invincibility that young people have.

    People first of all just DO NOT READILY ACCEPT the death of a young person. It goes against human nature. Parents are SUPPOSED to outlive their kids. When someone young dies senselessly (perhaps a drunk driver?) on the road, it somehow makes the death a little WORSE.

    Especially if it's a pedestrian death. I had one of those near a school near my last home - a 13 year old girl legally crossing in the crosswalk and just hit by an inattentive driver.

    That was a hard pill to swallow for the parents and the friends. Such a young life taken so soon, so unfairly. It generates a lot of unusually high grief levels, and ALL they can really do to help share in the grief is put up a memorial.

    It's just a part of the grieving process.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "It's just a part of the grieving process."

    A memorial is part of the grieving process. Placing the memorial at the accident site is part of making the process PUBLIC.

    And it is this desire to make what should be a private issue a public issue is the part I don't understand. I mean, where does this trend stop? Are we far from the day when parents rent space on billboards to memorialize the loss of a child? Buying 30-sec TV spots? Yes, the loss of a child is devastating for precisely the reasons you indicate (parents aren't supposed to bury their children), but at what point do memorials cease being part of a healing process and enter the realm of bad taste?

    My answer to that is whenever the grieving party takes the memorial public when the public has no interest in the deceased.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Well, at least SOME of the public has interest, or nothing would appear at the memorial.

    I see the point though - vast majority of "drivers by" did not know the deceased or care about them.

    My original point stands though - as long as they are not a traffic hazard, what are they REALLY hurting?

    PS Something else I just thought about:

    Is it already so "trendy" that a parent who DOES NOT put up a memorial will be ridiculed behind their back for not putting one up? That would be a shame if we have reached that point.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    They aren't "hurting" anything in a real, defineable sense. But, at some point, one does cross the bounds between private grieving and attempting to wallow in the trough of public sympathy.

    "Is it already so "trendy" that a parent who DOES NOT put up a memorial will be ridiculed behind their back for not putting one up? That would be a shame if we have reached that point."

    I think 'ridicule' would be too strong. But I think that we HAVE reached the point that if a parent loses a child and they DON'T put up a little roadside memorial, some folks WILL wonder (out load) why they haven't done so. In a sense, I believe that it has become the 'expected' response.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986

    Mark the calendar... :shades:

    Grief shared with loved ones and friends is cathartic; a way to give unreserved good will to each other to move forward. Little public shrines do zip, other than expose the public at large to something that ought to be personal.

    Still, don't really care if they're there (unless they're out of hand), don't care if they have to go.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    dammit wale - now I've got to go and recheck my premise.... ;)
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    It's not a huge issue to me either, but I do think that at a point it becomes cluttery and tacky (for the record, I'm a neat freak and I also hate billboards). Plus, I've seen some that are falling to pieces because they're erected and then not maintained... that's the same as litter.

    And, they can become a distraction if there's a message, e.g., "Billy died here on xx date because he wasn't wearing his seatbelt. Don't let the same happen to you - buckle up and stay alive." That's too much to read.


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  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    I go by one of these memorials every day on my commute. It consists of 3 large white crosses, on the right side of the road. Originally, somewhat smaller crosses were in the median, but the state DOT (Virginia) deemed them a road hazard, so the replacements were put up on private land owned by a church.

    The annoying thing is that they've been up since 1998!

    I know the story behind the memorial. It seems one warm day nearly 9 years ago, a 17-year-old woman driving a Jeep Cherokee in the right lane of this 4-lane highway was distracted by a bee that flew inside her vehicle. She swerved to the left just as a Monte Carlo was starting to pass her in the left lane.

    So, the 49-year-old woman driving the Monte Carlo swerved to her left, lost control in the median, rolled over and tumbled upside down into the oncoming lanes, where her car was hit by a Nissan Altima. Unfortunately, the woman had her nieces (I think) in the car, ages 10 and 4, who were completely unrestrained, ejected, and killed. The woman also was unbelted and killed.

    IIRC, there were two women in the Altima who were not seriously injured.

    I saw photos of the Monte Carlo. The roof was crushed somewhat in the front, but the rear part of the roof was okay. There is no doubt in my mind that if the kids had been properly restrained in the back seat, they would have survived, probably without serious injuries. I can't say for sure about the driver.

    The husband of the fatally injured driver has maintained the crosses, which include the first names and ages of the deceased. He decorates them for every holiday, such as Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween(!), and Christmas. Mylar birthday balloons are tied to the appropriate cross when the time comes. Right now, Christmas wreaths are still on the crosses. He planted 3 trees in the median where the Monte crossed over, but only one still survives.

    The kicker is this guy was so obsessed that he stalked the local district attorney for not pressing charges against the teenager driving the Cherokee. He even received some kind of conviction (maybe a fine) for harassing said prosecutor.

    I have this fantasy of ripping up those crosses out of the ground in the dark of night, carrying them away in my pickup, and dumping them in the woods at my workplace. Don't worry, I'll never actually do it!

    There's another spot near Winchester, VA on US 522 where 5 similar crosses are erected in the median. The road is 4-lane, but rather curvy at that spot, and goes over a small creek. Must have been one heck of a crash.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "The kicker is this guy was so obsessed that he stalked the local district attorney for not pressing charges against the teenager driving the Cherokee"

    Sounds like a lot of dumb and dumber actions that led to this tragedy - starting with the victim not having herself or kids properly buckled in...

    ..but, the teenager that caused the accident should absolutely have been charged. Period. I'm sure that the judge/jury after hearing all of the facts, may have shown leniency. But whether she was 17, 47, or 87 it is a driver's responsibility to maintain control of a car and failure to do so is a chargeable offense. And yes, had the driver of the Monte carlo survived, she should have been charged as well for negligent homicide for the deaths of the kids.

    The idea that the prosecutor independently decided to let the 17 year old off scott free is unconscionable. So what now, every minor distraction is a legitimate excuse for causing a fatal accident? If something like a bee in a car is an excuse for losing control, I would have killed a few dozen people by now in my 30+ years of driving :confuse:
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    I'm not sure when we have been in total agreement before but that post might just be one of them.

    I also feel pretty much like Wale in that I don't see a problem one way or another with the memorials. They may want to consider some guide lines or time limits but who knows? Even in a cemetery they only leave the excess displays, flowers and balloons, up for a week and then someone would have to replace them. I don't see any social pressure to put up a memorial. It seems more popular now but that may be a phase.

    All in all it seems as if some of us have been getting a bit thin skinned here. Who cares if there is a cross or a set of micky mouse ears on a stick on the side of the road? We should have some control of what we pay attention to and what we can ignore. It the city, state or county decides to remove the displays from public land they can do that. If they decide to leave it there they can do that as well. I don't see where it should take any action by those of us who are not part of the grieving party either way.

    There are plenty of things we could ban from public view that would top my list over memorials. Boys with pants handing below where their back pockets belong and heavy women in spandex would be more of a visual distraction and could be banned from public sidewalks. But that too should pass as a fad.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    I'd rather focus on getting hi-lift 4X4s with huge Stars and Stripes and huge Stars and Bars stuck on broomsticks off the road. Permanently.

    Help clean up America; impound a redneck-mobile today...
  • spoomspoom Posts: 85
    it does seem fair to take down the memorials too. Even though the memorials are more accepted/acceptable to many folks, it's still an act of putting some type of private item on public land to express private thoughts. Eventually somebody crosses a line and then what? Then somebody has to make a decision on what is acceptable and you'll never please everyone. I understand the need to grieve, but that can be channeled elsewhere. Frankly, a lot of these memorials just deteriorate into litter, like concert bills taped to lightposts. I' like the way some signs in South Dakota are done. On the back of various regulation signs are red X's to signify a fatality. They are easily seen but not distracting and need no maint.$ later on, while still giving one pause to their mortality.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    In Virginia, it's technically illegal to put up such memorials on publicly owned land on the roadside. But they keep popping up anyway.

    The state has a program somewhat like South Dakota's in that family or friends of the deceased can request that a standardized sign be placed at the crash site. This is a blue sign stating, "In memory of [name]. Please drive safely." The sign stays up for one year only.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    but, the teenager that caused the accident should absolutely have been charged. Period. I'm sure that the judge/jury after hearing all of the facts, may have shown leniency.

    The case never went to trial, because the district attorney decided against charging the teenage driver. I don't know the details, such as how far she swerved to the left. Maybe the Monte Carlo driver overreacted.

    The state IMO bears some responsibility in that if you start across the grassy median at the location of the crash, it slopes sharply downward to the opposing lanes. Any vehicle will roll in that situation, so I think a guard rail should be installed. Nine years later, none exists. (There are lots of places like this in VA, where the "old" side of a divided highway follows the lay of the land, while the "new" side has been graded -- this results in differing heights between the opposing roadways.)

    I was involved in a similar incident in 1983 (thankfully where no one was injured). I had just entered a short entrance ramp on the PA Turnpike, and a Nissan Z car in the right through lane overreacted to my "surprise" appearance and swung left. Unfortunately, the left lane was occupied by a Chevy Malibu, whose driver in turn swung left into the center guard rail.

    I had no intention of merging when the Z made its move. There was no contact between the Z and the Malibu, and only the latter was damaged. We all stopped in a wide area off to the right to exchange information. A few weeks later I received a call from the insurance company of the Malibu driver asking me for an account of the crash.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    That's a really great program, IMO. It gets the message across that someone died here, and reminds you that it could happen to anyone anywhere.


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  • Might be off subject here but, anybody seen those signs actually giving the fatalities for a given stretch of highway? It usually said something like:


    I can't remember where I saw it and it also seems like they may not do it anymore (lawyers... sigh) because of new age liability issues.

    Dang I miss the sixties!
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    "The case never went to trial, because the district attorney decided against charging the teenage driver. I don't know the details, such as how far she swerved to the left. Maybe the Monte Carlo driver overreacted."

    Again, my point was that the DA should have charged her with reckless driving and let the judge/jury decide on the facts. Not charging someone that causes a fatal accident is NOT what I would want to see my tax dollars supporting in the form of a justice system.

    Reminds me of an incident about 35 years ago in front of our house at 9:00 p.m. on a summer night. A girl walking on the shoulder of the road was struck from behind by a car that was going in the other direction and had swung out to pass another car, well over the posted 35 mph speed limit. The driver was a prominant local businessman, heading home with his wife after having a few cocktails with dinner. My father was the first on the scene and couldn't do much other than attempt CPR as the girl died. It was clearly a case of DUI (at a time when that resulted in a slap on the wrist, at most), speeding and reckless driving. We were shocked when the DA, after reviewing the evidence, decided not to press charges. This was obviously a case of abuse of office to show favoritism - and ultimately resulted in the DA being fired, with the help of testimony from my father. But, still, the driver was never charged and, several years later, killed someone else in a DUI.

    At a minimum, if a driver can't keep a car under control when a bee flies in the window, they shouldn't have a license, period. A tree falling or even a deer running on the road is one thing. Insects another.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Well, our DA at the time was a pretty level-headed guy from the conservative side of the political spectrum. I'm not going to second-guess what he did (not pressing charges), because I don't know the detailed facts behind the start of the crash sequence. Certainly he and the investigating police officers would have had this information.

    Clearly, he wasn't corrupt as in the the case you described, and AFAIK, the teenager wasn't the daughter of any prominent local figure.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Drive around here in the Texas Panhandle and you will see some sort of a shrine where ever a car fatality took place. The Tx Panhandle folks do this very often. I have mixed emotions on this subject and can see why people do it and see why people oppose it. :(

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