Lawmaker says you can have your roadside memorial…for a price
We've all seen the sad roadside memorials on all kinds of streets and highways in New Jersey. Flowers, teddy bears, burned out candles, and deflating balloons. I have never had a problem with these, but many people do. I understand grieving families feeling so helpless that they want to somehow reach out to the person they lost in such a sudden and terrifying way as a car crash. Leaving these items at the scene, while impractical to so many, is a psychological way of dealing with the sudden loss by saying, "It shouldn't have happened here, not this way, not on a cold, lonely stretch of highway, and we will always remember."
These displays are technically illegal, although that's widely unenforced. Occasionally when the DOT determines one is an unsafe distraction they will dismantle it but they make an attempt to contact family to offer them the items back. Usually though they go unchallenged and that's not okay with a lot of folks. Among them is Assemblyman Andrew Andrzejczak. He now has legislation to regulate roadside memorials and allow them only in the form of an official sign that would be erected somewhat near the crash site. They could not be placed on on-ramps or off-ramps or anywhere that could block the view of other signs nor anywhere the DOT felt was unsafe. You could end up with your memorial sign half a mile from where the deceased actually perished. He says it would have the actual loved one's information on the sign.
How would it work? You'd have to apply to the state for permission. It would take 60 days for approval, very long into a family's grieving process. The legislation states the DOT is allowed to charge an application fee to cover the cost of the program. I noticed in reading the bill it states to cover the cost but says nothing about what the actual application fee would be, nor does it state the charge could not exceed the cost of running the program. So I have to wonder if there'd be some profit in this.
Of all the problems we have in New Jersey, it doesn't seem to me this is worthwhile. Seeing even tattered, old roadside memorials never feels like an eyesore to me when I consider the pain of a loss. Also, I am not easily distracted when driving so these never pose a danger to me. Perhaps those that are bothered by them and talk about how dangerous they are have shorter attention spans. I don't really know. Finally, I'm not a fan of the state getting into a quasi-funeral business model by potentially profiting from memorializing the dead.
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