Roadside memorials are a familiar sight in America. You’ve seen them at street corners, near sidewalks and at the sides of highways. They include crosses, flowers, homemade signs, white bikes, candles and photos. Every single roadside memorial you see stands for a life that was lost in an accident with a motor vehicle.
Would it surprise you to learn, however, that roadside memorials are not a modern tradition? They’re actually part of a 200-year-old legacy out of the southwest, where crosses were placed along the road leading from the local church to the graveyard to honor the dead.
Today, roadside memorials are left at or near the exact spot where someone died after being hit by a car while walking, knocked off a bike in traffic, thrown to the ground from their motorcycle or killed in some other kind of crash. They serve as both a memorial for the dead and a spot for a victim’s loved ones to gather and grieve or pay their respects.
They also serve as a warning to others. Even though there are roughly 1.25 million people killed in roadway accidents every year, many of those deaths are preventable — particularly those where a pedestrian, cyclist or biker was killed by a reckless driver. In other cases, roadside memorials crop up as a way to signal that a particular road is especially dangerous because of a blind turn, speeders, drunk drivers or something similar. Sometimes, they even become a form of protest, a way to bring attention to hazards facing people who must use that particular stretch of road.
If your loved one was killed due to a negligent or reckless motorist’s actions, a roadside memorial may be a tangible way of expressing your grief — but don’t neglect to hold the guilty party accountable for their actions via a wrongful death claim in court.