Roadside Memorial Facts and Ideas

Published August 24, 2020
Roadside memorial with flowers

A roadside memorial is often a very important tribute to a loved one. Many people find leaving this kind of marker consoling and a way to honor their deceased loved one.

What Is a Roadside Memorial?

A roadside memorial is a type of marker, often a cross, flowers, or wreath, that memorializes the place where someone died, typically in a traffic accident/wreck. This isn't a gravesite, since the body is interned in a cemetery or cremated. This marker is significant since it's the final place where the person was alive or more importantly, where they died. This tradition comes from ancient times when travelers would die along a path, trail, or road and were buried where at that spot as a matter of necessity.

Roadside Memorial Signs

Family and/or friends create the roadside memorial and then maintain it. You may see these tributes to deceased loved ones in various designs and forms along roads and highways. These memorials can be homemade signs, live floral arrangements, or weatherproof plastic floral designs. A metal stand/frame such as those used for a funeral ceremony for floral arrangements that hold a cross or wreath is driven into the ground. These stands can support a floral cross or wreath without toppling over.

What Are the Crosses on the Side of the Road Called?

A cross on the side of the road is known as a descanso. The word descanso is Spanish and means to rest. This is an appropriate word for a place where someone has died from a traffic wreck. Descanso also signifies that the death was unexpected and usually violent.

Roadside Memorial Ideas

The roadside spot serves as a true memorial site. Sometimes people leave stuffed animals or various toys at a site when a child is killed. Homemade signs and personally penned letters, precious mementos, photos, and other types of objects are often left as part of the memorial to the deceased.

In Memory sign on the roadside

Permanent Roadside Memorial

In some countries and states in the US, a more permanent marker is allowed, such as an inscribed plaque or marker. This is something that is often combined with an official state road sign.

Ways to Decorate a Roadside Memorial

You may choose to create and decorate a roadside memorial. You should first check to see if it is legal in your state. If it is, then you can begin planning the kind of memorial you wish to create.

  • A photo sign can be placed at the memorial site.
  • A plaque featuring a Bible verse is a good way to personalize the memorial.
  • A more permanent memorial may allow for the planting of flowers (check with state laws).
  • You can place a wooden or vinyl cross at a roadside memorial site.
  • Many people use a lone cross and decorate it for various holidays and seasons with flowers and other decorations.

Roadside Memorials Becoming Common in United States

Over the past decades, roadside memorials have sprung up along major highways. Some treacherous roads with high accident rates often have several memorials scattered along the dangerous stretch of road. These areas become modern shrines that mark where the person drew their last breath or was rush to the hospital, having sustained fatal injuries, later resulting in their death.

Southwestern United States

You can find roadside memorials throughout Southwestern United States. Many of these are historic trails are marked with graves of people who died as they trekked across the country. These and other memorials are decorated for the holidays, anniversaries of their deaths, birthdays, and other occasions. Battery operated candles are left on to stand vigil over the site.

Are Roadside Memorials Legal?

In the United States, some states allow roadside memorials, while others have banned them. A few states offer a roadside caution sign advising motorists to drive safely or warn of a sharp curve. This type of sign sometimes features the name of the deceased in a tribute/memorial.

Controversy Over Creating Roadside Memorials

There are many people who argue that roadside memorials are distracting and could easily cause motorists to take their gaze off the road and end up in a wreck. Other people argue that a roadside memorial is no different that billboards and various roadside signage.

States Ban Roadside Memorials

Some states have taken up the issue of roadside memorials in their state legislatures and made this type of unauthorized memorials against the law. However, many people who've lost loved ones in a traffic accident ignore such laws and continue to create these memorials.

States Allow Memorials on the Roadside

There are some states that have recognized the importance of roadside memorials to the families and friends of the deceased. These states allow the placing of roadside memorials along the highways where loved ones died. You must follow the state's guidelines for roadside memorials if you wish it to remain intact.

Roadside Memorials You Can Create

You can begin to plan your roadside memorial once you understand what it is. If your state allows this type of tribute along the roadways, you have many options for creating a unique and personal memorial.

Roadside Memorial Facts and Ideas