Roadside memorials on Jersey roads — Should they stay or should they go?
I was driving home from picking up my kids at their grandmother's house in Linden Sunday afternoon. On westbound 287, just before exit 5, there was something you couldn't miss. A three to four foot tall cross, I think blue, on the sloping hill alongside the highway. Surrounding it were flowers, balloons, and other sentimental items. A makeshift roadside memorial for someone who's life ended tragically in a crash right there. We see these dotting the landscape all over the state, at least from time to time. I've never been bothered by these but I know many folks are.
In a cursory internet search, it seems polls on this question are with mixed results. This is not scientific, but from the various polls I looked up, it seems to me the closer you are to the northeast the more people are bothered by these. Is that because we in the northeast are just cold? No, let's be fair in recognizing it could be that in places with more traffic roadside memorials might be looked upon as more of a driving distraction.
For me, they serve as a reminder to all of us that anything can happen at any moment. A small wake-up call if you will that hopefully makes us a bit less heavy on the gas and a bit more cautious. I never crane my head around to stare at these so I don't find them a danger. I know instantly what they are from a peripheral glance and that's enough of a reminder for me that someone on this highway trying to get home just like me never made it. Others will say they are simply an eyesore. I don't feel they are large enough in numbers to be a true eyesore, certainly not like the thousands of political signs that are still up everywhere and need to come down.
I'm not only unbothered by roadside memorials, I was once responsible for one. A long time ago, someone I knew was struck and killed on a highway in West Virginia while trying to run across the road. I had to identify the body at a local morgue and I found out this person wasn't going to have any kind of service. Not because of lack of caring but because of lack of money. I felt very bad for the family, and on the way out of town I stopped at a flower shop and got several bouquets and placed them high up on the hillside overlooking that stretch of highway. You can call it an empty gesture and you're right if you say it changes nothing. I just felt I wanted to offer the symbolism that a person who's life tragically ended was loved and not forgotten.
I wonder if I'm in the minority on this. Here in a crowded state like New Jersey with some of the most congested and scariest roads, do you feel roadside memorials are a harmless and sentimental reminder to be more cautious ourselves or a distracting eyesore that should not be allowed? Please take our poll.