DOTD ordinarily lets them be

If you drive anywhere these days you’ve seen them, roadside memorials with crosses and flowers

to honor the victim or victims of a car accident.

They are part of the grief healing process for some and are not limited to roads and highways. On city street corners, candles, photos and stuffed animals can be found paying tribute to a victim of violence.

These home-made shrines, no matter what the intentions are behind them, are not without


Why do people feel the need to build them? Are they a warning? Or do they create potentially dangerous distractions? Do they need to come with restrictions?

“When I see one on the side of the road it makes me be more careful in that area,” said Disa Clasen.

“It provides a warning to me that obviously the area is dangerous and I need to pay more attention.

Someone lost their loved one there”

There are three reasons why some people think they should not be allowed.

First, they are a distraction and, therefore, dangerous to the motorist. Many are often elaborate and

include symbols that are anchored in the ground and potentially deadly and if a motorist loses control

and hits one of these displays it could be fatal.

Second, they constitute the taking of public property for private purposes.

Third, they often include Christian crosses and religious symbols. This, some claim, violates the constitutional principle of separation of church and state because public facilities are being used to promote religion.

Some memorials disappear over time. Others are maintained for years. No one can say how many

there are.

According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development website, Louisiana’s current policy on roadside memorials is they are encroachments on DOTD right of way and are illegal.

However, DOTD, sensitive to the emotions involved, does not regularly remove such memorials from the public right of way unless complaints are received, an unreasonable safety hazard is created, and/or they interfere with routine roadside maintenance functions.

The custom of placing small decorated crosses or other memorials at the side of the highway to

mark fatal car accidents has spread from regions of the United States, like the Hispanic Southwest,

where they are known as descansos, or resting places.

The custom of marking the place of death with a small cross was brought to Mexico and the southwestern United States by Spanish colonists in the 17th century.

Folklorists recognize these small memorials are vernacular, based on tradition and generally outside

the control or jurisdiction of state or local authorities.

But unlike the state of New Mexico, which has made it a misdemeanor to remove or vandalize these homemade shrines, in other parts of the country where the custom is not deep-rooted many people are offended by them.

“I don’t think they should be allowed,” said Bobby Dearman of Anacoco.” People can grieve at home; I don’t need to see it on a public highway.”

States deal with roadside memorials in different ways. Alaska offers free, official signs that stay in

place for 10 years; Florida, one year. California offers $1,000 signs that stay in place for seven years,

but are available only to families of drunk driving victims. Georgia banned homemade memorials in

favor of small signs,

Delaware handles the issue in a way that often is cited as a model for other states. In 2007 it opened a memorial garden at a rest area that is lined with bricks containing the names of people killed on the state’s roads.