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Roadside memorials offer silent reminder

February 26, 2011

They dot the landscape of West Virginia's highways and byways, these memorials to loved ones tragically lost as the result of an automobile. While some leave flowers, pictures, or other reminders to mark the spot and the event, the state's Department of Transportation has other ways to honor those memories.

According to state figures, about 400 people die each year on West Virginia's roads. Those left behind often erect make-shift memorials along the right-of-way, and that is allowed by the Division of Highways. But those memorials may be removed without notice, if officials determine they interfere with highway construction or maintenance or are a safety hazard.

State leaders have come up with another way to honor memories, and it can be also used as a way to remind motorists to drive safely. The highway department can place an official sign at the site of the tragedy, one with white lettering on a blue background.

"Please Drive Safely" is available to all who apply. Another sign, "Please Buckle Up," is available to the families where the victim was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the event. "Don't Drive and Drive" is available in instances where the victim was killed as the result of an intoxicated driver.

Signs, however, are not available to families where the victim's wrongful conduct was determined to be the contributing cause of the accident.

The signs, which will cost $200, may be requested by an immediate family member of the victim, and it must be done within three years of the accident. The cost covers the making of the signs, putting it in place and any other maintenance required during a three-year period. The requesting family member has the option to renew the agreement for an additional three years.

After the six-year period, the sign is removed and offered to the person who initially requested the memorial sign.



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