The Georgia Department of Transportation has struck the perfect balance between sensitivity and safety with the introduction earlier this month of a formal plan for memorializing those who die on state and federal roadways.
It is, sadly enough, all too common around the state to see the homemade roadside memorials installed by family and friends at the site of wrecks that have taken the lives of their loved ones.
But, as heartfelt as those tributes are, and as likely as it is that they perform the valuable service of reminding passing motorists to be more careful on the roads, the memorials can also present a danger to motorists, to say nothing of the state’s road maintenance crews.
While the memorials no doubt carry real meaning to those who place them alongside Georgia’s state and federal roadways (local roads aren’t covered by the DOT’s new memorial plan), the truth is that they aren’t always particularly well fabricated, and they sometimes fall victim to neglect as the sad circumstances that prompted their placement fade into memory.
As such, pieces of the memorials can sometimes become detached from the main structure, falling into the weeds where they can subsequently become dangerous projectiles if picked up in the blades of a DOT mowing machine. In addition to placing the mowing crew in danger, that circumstance can also become a danger for motorists passing by the mowing site.
Also, in those cases in which the memorial structure includes stone, brick, concrete blocks, thick pieces of wood or other substantial objects, they can present a danger in the unfortunate circumstance that another accident takes place at the memorial site.
Still, even with those apparent dangers, some people want to remember their deceased loved one in a tangible way, and, as noted, in a way that might prompt other drivers to think about what they’re doing behind the wheel. Recognizing that very human – and, thus, easily understood – desire to hold someone in memory, the DOT earlier this month unveiled a program that will allow just that, without all the attendant dangers of the homemade memorials that now dot the roadsides around the state.
Under the program, which includes the removal of those homemade memorials for safety reasons, the DOT is offering memorial signs to people who have lost a loved one on a federal or state route in Georgia.
The program requires a family member (or a family friend, with approval of the family) to apply for the sign, which is a 15-inch diameter circle with the words “Drive Safely, In Memory” and the victim’s name.
To ensure that the program isn’t abused by anyone who might want to play some sort of sick joke, an official accident report must be filed with the application before the DOT will consider installing the memorial.
Approved memorials will be placed as close as possible to the accident scene, outside the DOT mowing zone, and will remain in place for a year, after which the sign will be removed and presented to the applicant.
There is a $100 charge for the memorial sign.
In a news release announcing the program, DOT Commissioner Vance Smith Jr. said, “We believe this will appropriately address the desires of an individual’s family and friends to note their passing while allowing the department to maintain safety and uniformity along our roadways.”
Our thanks to the DOT for definitively addressing the issue of roadside memorials in a way that balances sentiment with safety. There’s no doubt that it was, in some ways, a difficult issue to address, and the agency deserves due credit for taking it on.
Anyone interested in the memorial program can find details, and an application, on the DOT website, www.dot.state.ga.us.