What a Jersey lawmaker wants to do about dangerous roadside memorials
You see them along the side of the road all over the Garden State — makeshift memorials from those who lost loved ones in an automobile accident, typically in the area where the accident occurred.
They're technically against the law in many areas, but it's a law not truly enforced, according to a New Jersey lawmaker who's attempting to get a better handle on where these memorials are located, and by whom.
Under the legislation from Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, a "roadside memorial program" would be established under the state Department of Transportation. Next of kin interested in a roadside memorial would be required to fill out an application including the name of the deceased, the date and location of the accident, and any police reports, among other information.
Within 60 days of receipt of the application, the bill states, the DOT would inspect the location and send a decision as to whether a sign may be installed, by the department, where requested.
"It wouldn't be just a generic sign. It would actually have the loved one's information on the sign," Adrzejczak told New Jersey 101.5.
According to Andrzejcak, memorials would be prohibited near an on- or off-ramp of a major highway, and near permanent road signs.
Marking tragedies throughout New Jersey, memorials along roads today can be as small as a photo of the deceased next to a bouquet of flowers. Others are more extravagant, sometimes needing the support of a utility pole or highway sign.
Andrzejcak said he has nothing against families and friends wanting to honor a loved one who passed away, but safety is a concern when these memorials are erected in any spot by anyone.
"It's kind of a win-win," he said of his measure. "You're having a permanent structure there for the family ... to be able to have that memory of their loved one, but it's also a reminder for other drivers on the road to be safe and pay attention to the road."
In order to fund the program, a fee would be attached to each application, Andrzejczak said. The bill does not specify the application cost, which would be determined by DOT at a later date.
The department does not comment on legislation, but spokesman Kevin Israel said DOT has a responsibility to ensure that these memorials do not pose a danger to those visiting the memorial or to the motoring public.
"If it is determined that the memorial is a hazard, NJDOT staff will remove it as quickly as possible," he said in an emailed statement. "We will attempt to contact family members to advise them that it has to be removed for safety reasons and offer them the opportunity retrieve the memorial."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.