Last month, the Georgia Department of Transportation took a big turn on roadside memorials. These are the memorials we have all seen along highways and roads that are constructed by family members and friends after a loved one has died in a fatal motor vehicle accident.
Now the Georgia DOT says these memorials along state and federal highways pose a road hazard for drivers who move their eyes away from the road to take a look at the memorial and become distracted. They say they intend to remove them over time as the roadsides are maintained. This does not apply to city and county roads.
We know from the use of technology within a vehicle such as texting while driving, that when drivers move their eyes away from the road it can be deadly. Presumably, it is a similar safety concern for drivers whose attention is drawn to the make shift memorials that often include messages, flowers and religious symbols, such as a cross.
The families of loved ones who have tragically died in a fatal accident on Georgia's roads have been given an alternative by the DOT. The state is offering a more "uniform" solution to the public memorial. They will issue a sign at the cost of $100 that will include the deceased person's name and the notation "Drive Safely, In Memory" and will give the sign to the person who paid for it, after it has stood for one year. No other memorials will be permitted on Georgia's roads. The application for this sign can be viewed here.
According to a recent account in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some family members are taking the news of this development very hard. Many bereaved families use the memorials they have created as part of their grieving process and for them it might not be the same creating an individualized memorial for their loved one.
In its Highway Safety Memorial Markers policy statement, the DOT states: "The policy is to provide guidance for the application process and uniform design and placement of memorial markers within the State Highway rights of way."
Although the agency appears to understand that this change is not going to be easy for some families to accept, the DOT's policy on this issue stems from the fact that nearly 1500 people die on Georgia's roads annually.
A big factor in the dangers of the memorials constructed by families and friends is the proximity to the edge of the road. When people gather around these memorials they can be at risk of being hit or killed themselves by oncoming traffic.
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a Georgia highway accident, seek legal advice as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle, we have been winning cases for Gwinnett County auto accident victims for decades. To find out how we can help you, please give us a call or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Duluth, the Perimeter, Buckhead or Decatur. We have nearly two decades of experience in helping injured car crash victims and their families with skill and compassion.