Between a cross and a hard decision
The Nevada Department of Transportation has come up with an acceptable solution for roadside memorials.
By placing standardized markers alongside Nevada’s roads where people have lost their lives, the department can satisfy the desire of relatives and friends who want some remembrance at the sites. At the same time, it can avoid the potential controversy of religious symbols on state lands.
The standardized markers are one of three options presented by NDOT at a series of meetings.
One option would be to simply allow roadside memorials but remove them if they are hazardous, too large or “inappropriate in design,” which would require a judgment call by the state. That doesn’t really address the problem.
While we’ve been critical of the furor created by the anonymous threat to sue over the Krystal Steadman memorial on Highway 50 west of Carson City, the issue in our minds was the size of the memorial and not the fact it was a cross. Because vandals kept destroying it, the cross became increasingly large and, finally, a semi-permanent fixture.
Whether the cross was a roadside hazard or an offense to someone’s anti-religious view, the situation was not a good one for a state bureaucracy to be in. NDOT needed some kind of policy.
The third option presented by NDOT would ban all roadside memorials. That’s not very workable either, because some people will still want to mark the spots where they lost a loved one. And NDOT would be put in the uncomfortable position of erasing the memorials.
Even with standardized markers, we expect friends and family will continue to lay wreaths, flowers and other memorabilia – maybe even religious symbols – at the sites. We also expect NDOT supervisors to use some common sense by leaving such items when they’re not obtrusive and removing them when they are.
The memorials are important, not only to family and friends of victims. Who hasn’t seen one and been sobered by the reminder of the dangers on our highways? They’re more effective than any “caution” sign will ever be.