Regulating roadside memorials

January 19, 2009
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Everyone has seen them while driving – the roadside memorials marking the spot where someone died with a cross, pictures, flowers, or stuffed animals. One Indiana legislator wants to regulate the erection of these by having the Indiana Department of Transportation or local government establish and maintain a roadside memorial for just one year.

At first glance, I question getting INDOT involved. These are private memorials set up by grieving family members or friends to remember a loved one and let the general public know someone died in an accident at that location. As long as the memorial is on public property and isn’t a distraction to drivers, it should be left alone.

Plus, the estimated $92 a pop to create, maintain, and then remove them will come from the State Highway Fund. The fiscal impact statement for the bill suggests around 100 people would want a memorial, but I imagine the number would be much higher. I bet you could get 100 requests just from the more populous counties like Marion, Lake, or Allen.

But many times these memorials aren’t on public property. A woman was recently killed on a street I drive every day and now there are stuffed animals and other items fastened to the tree in the front yard of where she was killed. As I passed by, I wondered if the homeowners allowed the memorial or if they are just putting up with it for the time being. I can’t imagine I’d want stuffed animals permanently affixed in my front yard, but how do you tell a grieving family to remove them?

Rep. Vern Tincher, D-Riley, suggests in HB 1108 that INDOT or local government step in and create uniform roadside memorials to remember the victims. Any memorials that pop up that aren’t erected by the government would be removed and all memorials would be taken down after one year. This isn’t the first time Indiana has tried to regulate roadside memorials. In 2003, a similar bill was introduced by Rep. Duane Cheney, D-Portage.

A state or locally regulated process would cut down on the distractions of giant teddy bears and other objects on the side of the road or tethered to trees. Regulation would also help private property owners when family members want to mark the site of a death. However, is it really the government’s place to do so with state funds?
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  • They SO need to ban these roadside memorials. They are ugly and tacky. If they were to limit it to attractive vegetation or a state-approved marker, it would be nice. As it is, though, people are allowed to decorate the spot where their loved one died with all kinds of tacky crap that sits out in the weather and becomes moldy, wet, and deteriorated. There is one behind my apartment building that has sat there for FOUR MONTHS and the city is too cowardly to make them remove it. I\'m sick of looking at that disgusting trash. It\'s not a memorial if it\'s garbage. What would you call wet, moldy stuffed animals other than garbage? Families should grieve in private. I should not have to be subjected to a bunch of tacky, ghetto-looking junk on public thoroughfares.
  • I AGREE THEY SOULD NOT BE ALLOWED THATS WHY OUR SOCIETY HAS GRAVE YARDS BUT GRAVE YARDS HAVE RULES . THE ROADSIDE MEMORIAL ACROSS THE STEET FROM MY DRIVE WAY GLOWS IN THE DARK FAKE FLOWERS CONSTANT GARBAGE FROM VISTORS TEENAGERS DOING BURNOUTS EVEN HEAD LIGHTS ON MY BEDROOM WALL WHEN VISTORS COME CALLING AFTER CLOSING TIME AT THE BAR. EVEN IF I GRILL A PORK CHOP THEY ARE HERE!!!!!!!!! THEY GET TO ENJOY THEIR PROPERTY BUT WE PUT UP WITH CONSTANT STREAM OF PEOPLE. IT\'S NOW 15 MONTHS INTO THIS AND I CANNOT BELIEVE SOCIETY PUTS UP WITH THIS OR FORCES US TO LIVE LIKE THIS
    • understanding
      If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.
      • It Should Be Allowed
        @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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