In the interest of safety, state highway workers will remove roadside memorials from along state roads this month. The state is offering to replace them with newly created memorial signs.
Beginning Sept. 16, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will remove nonregulation memorials placed along state roads by individuals to mark the location of a fatal traffic accident. The memorials will be held for 30 days for people to claim them.
In their place, the state has created a Memorial Sign Program allowing people to apply for a roadside memorial sign to be erected by the state in the highway right of way.
The program is part of the state's effort to combat drunk driving and to increase public awareness of the need to drive safely and responsibly.
Memorial signs for victims of fatal highway accidents are available in three categories: memorializing victims of an accident caused by a drunk driver, memorializing victims of accidents not caused by drunk drivers, and signs sponsored by the family of a fatally injured drunk driver.
"Many of the memorials ... the little white crosses and such ... that people put up are put up in medians and places that just aren't safe," said Murph O'Brien, spokesperson for the DOT.
"People park on the shoulder and run across traffic to get to the memorials in the median. We don't want to have yet another tragedy," he said.
Individuals wishing to sponsor a memorial sign for friends or loved ones fatally injured in a highway accident may do so by submitting an application to the state.
Signs memorializing the victim of a drunk driver or signs sponsored by family or friends of a drunk driver who lost his or her life, are 30 inches by 36 inches with white lettering on a blue background. The sign says, "Please Don't Drink And Drive."
Below the sign is a 30-inch-by-12-inch plaque that says either, "In Memory Of" followed by the victim's name, or "Sponsored By The" followed by the family's name.
Signs memorializing victims of accidents not caused by drunk drivers are 30 inches by 30 inches with the message, "Please Drive Safely" printed in white letters on a blue background.
Below that is a 30-inch-by-12-inch plaque that reads, "In Memory Of," followed by the victim's name.
The signs, which are provided free of charge, are to be placed near the scene of the accident at least 200 feet from all existing traffic signs. They should not obstruct the visibility of those signs. The memorial signs will be installed on the right shoulder facing traffic.
The state will order and install the signs and retain ownership.
The new signs, which may remain in place for 10 years, will be the only memorials allowed within the state highway right of way.
The DOT also has outlined procedures for remembering more than one victim in a single accident. Additional small plaques will be attached to the same signpost beneath the name of the first victim or sponsor.
Plaques for individuals who caused fatal accidents and plaques for victims will, in most cases, be installed on separate signs.
The department has several of the signs already made and should be able to install the memorials quickly, O'Brien said.
"For the little signs with the person's name printed on them, it should be about a 10- to 15-day turnaround and a little time to get a crew to put it up," he said.
Applications for the memorials can be obtained from the regional office of DOT nearest to where the accident occurred, or by calling the Central Region Right of Way office at (907) 269-0700 or (800) 770-5263.
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