How Pennsylvania treats roadside memorials to car crash victims

Because we must use the same city streets and highways where tragic auto accidents sometimes occur, we all have seen roadside memorials to the deceased. It is often just a matter of hours before friends and family begin leaving flowers, signs and mementos honoring the victim at the spot where he or she was fatally wounded.

Time passes and the memorials remain, perhaps somewhat disheveled by weather and exhaust fumes, but still a poignant reminder of a likely needless and preventable death, and the importance of driving safely so that there are no other victims there. At what point does a roadside memorial get taken down in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law does not have a set time limit, after which a memorial must come down, PennDOT told Philly Voice. Instead, the agency takes them on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether it deems a particular memorial to be a “visual distraction,” or if someone has complained. An official with the agency said they try balance these issues with being sensitive to the victim’s family’s grieving process.

While PennDOT is fairly tolerant of roadside memorials, they encourage families to consider participating in its Adopt-A-Highway program. A sign erected on the adopted stretch of road can be a tribute to the deceased. However, doing so obligates volunteers to clean their portion of the highway every three months.

These tributes can help families begin to accept what happened, but they cannot bring a negligent driver to justice. Wrongful death litigation can hold those responsible financially accountable.