Highway Memorial Markers
By Gregg Geerbaux
Do you know the purpose of those small round white metal signs you see along the roadside? They are official FDOT Memorial Markers and are meant to pay homage to someone who has died as a result of a motor vehicle accident as well as being a means of promoting highway safety to the public.
The ritual of honoring a person where they died has been practiced for centuries in many cultures and has been adapted to our transportation-dependent society. The roadside memorials are an expression of grief and love for the deceased. They are usually created by family or friends and may include ribbons, wreaths, flowers, balloons, or other items. Many times a white cross will be placed near the accident site. While the memorials are placed with the best of intentions they can cause problems. They can distract drivers. Sun, wind, and rain eventually take their toll on anything outside. Displays may not be maintained over time and can create a traffic hazard. They might be set up on the private property.
To help keep things under control, the Florida Department of Transportation instituted the Memorial Marker Program in 2017. The markers themselves are round 15-inch aluminum signs mounted on 5-foot posts. The sign reads “Drive Safely, In Memory” followed by the person's name. They are constructed and installed at no charge. A request must be submitted to FDOT and if done by friends it must include permission from the deceased's immediate family. They'll normally be installed for at least one year (the family can request a one-year extension) though they can be removed for reasons such as road maintenance. If there are space constraints or safety concerns, they might not be located at the exact accident location. The markers are only placed on roads that are under state control but there are some counties and cities that have their own memorial marker programs. Google it or check with your local public works department.
FDOT has a website where you can download the form in PDF or Word Doc format. You then find the email address for the county where the marker will be located from the list and attach the completed form to your email. They say you should get a response in 5-10 business days. There's also a phone number for each county if you need more information about the program.
Hopefully, the next time you pass one of these markers you'll give some thought to riding safely.