There Are Opponents to Highway Crash Memorials?


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.

  • lol, browne, I don’t think anyone should ban you. You’re saying what you want and I’m saying what I want. If another blog banned you just for posting, they were flat out wrong in my opinion.

  • bmd


    I am so glad you asked that question! I think it might be the most constructive comment to come out of this post.

    I have seen these kinds of discussions come up on NYC and SF Streetsblog several times before. They are sometimes heated, often disrespectful. And as far as I can tell, have done nothing to further our analysis or bring more women/underrepresented communities into the livable streets fold.

    We’re dealing with a professional field that has been stockpiled with old white dudes for decades, so it makes perfect sense that these issues come up. The question is, how will the movement for sustainable transportation and livable streets choose to deal with social equity?

    As you pointed out, there’s some amazing female leadership in transportation. SB should interview them and find out their opinions on sexism in the industry. Talk to the BRU about race, class and the livable streets movement. I think that would be super interesting.

    And while SB doesn’t moderate comments, maybe its editors can decide what their position is, and stand by that when folks are getting feisty and negative.

    What do you think?

  • I actually try not to forcefully push a position in the comments section because heck, I had the whole article to make my point. I sort of expected the comments section to be pretty short on this article, but then Spokker dropped the c-bomb and Browne took him to task for it and off we went. If people think it helps, I can take a more active role in the comments section, similar to the one at Blogdowntown where Eric and the rest of the writers are much more active in responding.

    If you include the two Streetfilms that were “interview based,” LA Streetsblog has done 18 interview pieces since our founding. Seven of them were of women, and 11 of males. Not included in that “seven” is that there were two women interviewed at the LACBC interview and three in the Midnight Ridazz interviews. I haven’t addressed the role of gender/race in the movement, but I think we’d need to do some brainstorming on the best way to do that.

  • Vic

    Egad. Talk about going on pointless tangents!

    To the point of the article, which I believe is the efficacy of roadside memorials … “Scenic America” might be interested in knowing that they’ve been erected in Montana for many years by the American Legion.

    Not exactly a “clutter of signs” … just poignant reminders just where they should be.

    “Scenic America” … get a clue … memorials are part of America.



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