House approves bill to legalize roadside memorials

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The state House unanimously approved a bill to legalize roadside memorials honoring car crash victims.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, and now heads to the Senate.

From time to time we have bills before us that feel good,'' Whitaker said. This is one of those bills. It feels good, it does good, it is good.''

Under current state law, roadside memorials are considered safety hazards and are required to be removed by the Department of Transportation. Last summer, the agency introduced signpost plaques that say Don't Drink and Drive'' or Drive Safely,'' with the name of the victim and the sponsor listed on another small plaque.

The DOT also gave indications it would begin removing homemade memorials, but never followed through on the idea.

Since then the department has recognized that might be a little heavy-handed,'' Whitaker said Thursday, when the bill passed by a 38-0 vote.

The measure would only allow memorials that do not contain reflective material or otherwise distract drivers; do not interfere with highway safety, construction, maintenance or signs; and do not contain commercial or political messages.

It does require that they be nonobtrusive, it does require that they be safe,'' Whitaker said.

Five legislators stood in support of the bill on Thursday, several noting that the signs are a reminder of the need to drive safely, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Something that causes me caution more than anything else is when I drive around a curve and see eight or nine of those white crosses,'' said Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak.

This is the one sign that says something happens, it happened right here, and don't forget it,'' said Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer.

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