Those touching and often elaborate roadside tributes to friends and loved ones lost in traffic accidents may soon become a thing of the past.
The Georgia Department of Transportation introduced a new program Tuesday, offering signs to memorialize the victims in place of crosses and other memorials that frequently go up right after a road tragedy.
"We believe this will appropriately address the desires of an individual's family and friends to note their passing while allowing the department to maintain safety and uniformity along our roadways," DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith Jr. said.
The signs, which are 15 inches in diameter, will feature the black-lettered message "Drive Safely; In Memory" and the victim's name. They can be requested by family or friends for a $100 fabrication and installation fee.
Only those who have lost a friend or loved one on federal or state routes on or after July 1 can apply. Friends must have approval of immediate family.
The sign will remain in place for one year. Then, it will be removed and given to the requesting sponsor.
DOT maintenance personnel will put up the sign at the edge of the mowing limits and as close as possible to the scene of the incident.
All other tributes will be removed for safety reasons.
Also, gatherings, ceremonies or other activities at sign areas will not be allowed, as they pose safety hazards, DOT officials said.
"As a norm, our maintenance crews remove (the memorials) when they are mowing or cleaning the right of way," DOT spokesman David Spear said. "We will take them up sooner if we judge them to be creating an imminent safety hazard."
The DOT will step up those efforts under the new program.
"Now that we have an official program for memorials, we want to encourage people that this is the only method that should be followed for them, for their safety and that of motorists," Spear said.
Such memorials are scattered about Hall County and feature everything from flower-covered crosses to a Styrofoam cutout of a motorcycle bearing the victim's last name at Ga. 365 and Jesse Jewell Parkway.
Jessica Collins of Lula said her family briefly kept a wreath at the site of a crash that killed her 8-year-old daughter, Ariana. The wreck took place at Ga. 365 and Mountain View Parkway.
While she can relate to families wanting to put up memorials, she liked the idea of state signs to remember victims.
"Maybe it'll make people more aware if they start seeing some of these signs out," Collins said.
Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT's Gainesville office, said the homemade memorials especially pose safety concerns.
"I understand families wanting to put something up more permanent, (but) we've had folks use concrete or terra cotta planters and concrete blocks to make the cross," she said. "And if another vehicle had a crash, some of these more permanent-style monuments could hurt somebody else."
The markers that the DOT will use "are the typical sign posts that we use along the right of way," Pope said.
"They are breakaway (signs), so that if there is another crash, that sign will give and won't hurt a person. ... And then we would replace that sign just like we do our normal signs."