Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roadside Memorial Sites

Small monuments are reminders that inattention leads to tragedy:

At the T intersection of East Washington Street and Adobe Road in Petaluma, four crosses provided a grim reminder of the risks associated with automobile travel.

No one could pass that place without noticing. No local person could pass that corner without remembering.

Four young people died here.

The four Sonoma County teenagers were killed in December of 2005 when the car in which they were riding drove into the path of a pickup truck.

Those memorials are gone now. For reasons known only to the perpetrators, these and three other roadside monuments around the county have been hauled away in recent months, as columnist Chris Smith and Staff Writer Derek J. Moore have reported.

For families and friends who honored these sites, these thefts only add to the sadness.

Technically, memorials posted on state property along public roadways are against the law, but state officials are trying to exercise common sense.

So long as the monuments don't become too large, too messy or a distraction to passing motorists, they aren't hurting anyone.

These are inevitably subjective judgments, but until this summer, no one had tried to intervene.

These tributes also serve as a signal to passersby that this intersection or this curve in the road may be dangerous if you're not driving with care.

The vandals who have deputized themselves as the roadside police apparently don't care about the heartbreak they cause families or the possibility that one of these memorials might save other lives.