There Are Opponents to Highway Crash Memorials?

8_10_09_memorial.jpgPhoto: salon.com

The California State Assembly recently passed legislation that will allow the family of victims of highway crashes to pay Caltrans to erect signs memorializing the fallen and reminding drivers to drive safely.  However, thanks to opposition from a group of what the Times terms "environmentalists," the legislation is actually watered down so that our state's highways aren't littered with signs ruining the view.

No, really.

"Our highways are not intended to be repositories for memorials," said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America, a group that advocates against unnecessary signage. "A clutter of signs is the last thing we need along our roadways."

Critics of the bill also note that California already has dozens of signs that name freeway interchanges and bridges in honor of CHP officers and state engineers who have died. The state also has posted hundreds of "Adopt-A-Freeway" signs advertising that an individual or company is sponsoring cleanup of a stretch of freeway.

I'm not actually sure where to go with this story.  Should I point out the traffic calming value of crash memorials, or just wonder how many of these signs Scenic America thinks are going to be on the highways?  I know California's highways aren't exactly "safe" but "a clutter of signs?"

Here's the real kicker.  The state already allows for the "official" placement of DUI memorials, as though an alcohol-related deadly accident is somehow more tragic than one caused by an "accident."

The first draft of this legislation allowed families or friends of any any victim of a traffic fatality to pay $1,000 to have Caltrans officials place a sign at the sight of the deadly crash to both pay tribute to their loved ones and warn others to drive safely.  The families hoped that having professionals place the memorial would remove danger to the mourners and that the more professional signage would last the test of time.

In response to the opposition to this nefarious legislation that would allow families to safely memorialize loved ones killed on our highways, the legislature changed the text so that it now limits the number of new non-DUI memorial signs statewide to twenty a year and each sign can stay up for no longer than seven years.  I'd hate to be the official that has to tell a grieving widow that her loss just wasn't tragic enough to merit a memorial after this year's allocated number of signs has run out.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 3,434 traffic fatalities in California in 2008.  While I'm sure that more of them occured on local streets than highways, I'm also sure that twenty signs a year is going to be much lower than the demand.