We’ve all seen a roadside memorial – one of the small, impromptu-looking shrines that commemorate those who died in a roadside collision. But not everyone might know that those memorials come with restrictions in some municipalities. Last November Ottawa’s transportation committee ruled that roadside memorials may be displayed at the scene of fatal collisions for a maximum of six months.
Why the time limit?
Some motorists do not approve of the memorials. They worry that people will stop at them, which might pose a safety hazard depending on where they are located. It stands to reason that some of them will be by definition in unsafe places, the very hazardous location partly to blame for the death in question.
Some people find the memorials distracting, and some object to religious articles on display, which will naturally favour one religion or another.
And there are those who just object to private citizens taking over public property.
On the other side, a memorial honours a life lost, which is a comfort to bereaved family and friends. It also serves as a reminder to drive safely, and can alert drivers and bicyclists to a particularly hazardous area.
So six months is the compromise for Ottawa. In Toronto, such memorials stay for three months.
Another way to commemorate those who have died on the road is through our laws. In particular, we can honour those who have died at the hands of impaired drivers by strengthening our laws and law enforcement. Comprehensive ignition interlock laws for all DUI offenders, automatic roadside licence suspension, and a “warn range” BAC limit of .05 are measures that have been shown to be effective in reducing the number of alcohol-related road deaths in provinces in which they have been adopted.
Making our DUI laws as good as they can be would be a fitting memorial to every victim, and a sign to their families that we are trying to do better.