Are Roadside Memorials Illegal?

Roadside Memorial Hillsboro OregonRoadside Memorial Laws

There's no national law governing roadside memorials, therefore states regulators are allowed to define their own rules when it comes to roadside memorials.

Veterans Roadside Memorial Interstate 5 North Oregon

PDX Airport Sidewalk Roadside Memorial

Roadside Memorial Hillsboro OregonRoadside Memorial State Laws

Some states have incorporated state approved signs to be erected at the site of the roadside fatality. Colorado had so many instances of vandalism that the state unveiled a standardized blue sign last year with the simple message: "Please drive safely" and the victim's name. Wyoming had school kids design an official state memorial sign. Florida and Washington allow only state-sanctioned markers. Florida and Texas will erect markers at the scene of the death. Missouri allows memorials but encourages victim families to participate in the state’s adopt-a-highway program instead. Utah plans to ban memorials later this year, and offer to plant wildflowers or erect a state-approved sign.

Lake Oswego Roadside Memorial

Goldendale Washington Roadside MemorialLimit Roadside Memorial Statute - Roadside Memorial Time Period
30-Day Limit & the Roadside Memorial Ban

Some states encourage roadside memorials with or without a designated time period. In May of this year, the city of Norton, Massachusetts, imposed a 30-day limit on roadside shrines. New Jersey and Wisconsin limit the period of time that memorials can remain up. Montana allows roadside memorials only in cases of alcohol related accidents. Alaska and West Virginia have statutes that encourage memorials and the state of New Mexico protects roadside memorials as “traditional cultural properties” by the state’s Historic Preservation Division.

Some states have completely banned and begun clearing roadside memorials. In 2004, Minnesota cracked down on memorials, clearing interstates and freeways of public shrines. In Nevada, the issue came to a head after state highway officials, threatened with a lawsuit, removed an 8-foot, steel cross from U.S. Highway 50 near Carson City. North Carolina and Oregon, prohibit the shrines. In California, where the shrines are also banned, residents may be required to pay a state fee of $1,000 per incidence. Alabama roadside memorials are being removed from interstate highways.

PDX Portland Airport Sidewalk Roadside MemorialState-Maintained Memorial Gardens

Delaware is the first state to begin constructing its own state-maintained memorial garden. Roadside memorials are so popular in the state of Delaware that it hopes its new garden made with engraved memorial bricks, will control the memorializing of highway deaths. Delaware has also enacted a law imposing a $25 fine for unauthorized use of state roadways. Thus far, 22 states have similar “unauthorized use” legislation, and the number has more than doubled in the last five years.

From the State of Delaware's Community Programs and Services Page on the Delaware Highway Memorial Garden website:

Located on the grounds of the Smyrna Rest Area, the 11,000 square foot garden is a creative blend of native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. The garden’s pathway is outlined with bricks engraved with the names of individuals who give the garden its character and significance. The Delaware Highway Memorial Garden is embodied by the slogan, “Our Garden Of Love, Peace, Healing, and Remembrance” chosen by the grief support group known as The Compassionate Friends-Brandywine Hundred Chapter.

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