Frazer Blog

Roadside Memorials: Meaning and Rules Behind Them

by | Jun 28, 2017 | For Families

Ghost Bike Roadside Memorial

Although roadside memorials are often thought of as a current memorial trend, they’ve actually been around for centuries. They’re used to memorialize the last place the deceased was alive, but more recently they mark fatal car accident locations.

These memorials are a great way to remember someone. However, there also are some rules and safety concerns to consider when it comes to roadside memorials. We’ll go over some of these rules and a few distinct types of roadside memorials.

Car Accident Roadside Memorials

Not only do roadside memorials let families memorialize and grieve their loved one, they bring awareness to driving safely. Families create the memorial to both honor their loved one and warn others about the dangers of driving.

Some typical items you may see at a roadside memorial are:

  • A cross, sign, or another memorial marker
  • Real or fake flowers
  • Wreaths
  • Framed pictures of the deceased
  • Stuffed animals (especially if the car accident victim was a child)
  • Memorial messages such as “In memory of (insert name here)”
  • Warning messages such as “Drive Safely”
  • Other mementos and items of significance to the deceased

Family and friends of the deceased can maintain the memorial by adding fresh flowers and replacing items with weather-related damages. We’ll discuss some rules and safety tips later on in this blog post.

Ghost Bikes

Ghost bikes are roadside memorials for cyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents. The bikes have white paint and signs, flowers, pictures, and other mementos on them. With more than 800 bicyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents during 2015, these memorials raise awareness while honoring their lives.

The first known ghost bike was made in 2003 by Patrick Van Der Tuin in St. Louis, Missouri. He witnessed a cyclist and motor vehicle accident and decided to make a ghost bike memorial. Even though the cyclist wasn’t seriously injured, he wanted to raise awareness about driving safe. He painted the bike white and made a sign that read “Cyclist struck here.” This ghost bike is thought to have started the ghost bike movement.

Rules and Safety Concerns

Depending on where you live, there are different rules for roadside memorials. Some states allow them, while others consider them as safety hazards to other drivers. Make sure you’re aware of your state’s rules before creating a roadside memorial. Also, contact the landowner to make sure you have permission to place the memorial in your desired location.

To keep both drivers and those setting up and maintaining a roadside memorial safe, follow these safety tips:

  • Make sure the memorial doesn’t interfere with traffic flow and a driver’s vision.
  • Make sure it doesn’t interfere with underground utilities or construction work.
  • Don’t put yourself or drivers in danger by crossing the road to get to the memorial.
  • Don’t park in an unsafe location that could cause a traffic accident.

To avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation, put the memorial in a safe and easy-to-access location. That way, you and your loved ones can easily maintain and visit the memorial without having to cross busy roads. Or, a safer and alternative option if your state doesn’t allow roadside memorials is adopting a highway in your loved one’s name.

Have you made a roadside memorial to honor a loved one? Share your tips with us in the comments.


  1. Linda Reidelbach

    Good afternoon, anyone considering placing a roadside memorial may want to rethink it, depending on the circumstances. My sister was killed when a man driving the opposite direction crossed over the centerline causing a head on collision. Both died at the scene. The location of the crash is just down the road from my sister’s house, where her husband remains living. One of her daughters and family live close by. The negligent driver’s family placed a cross with his name inscribed on it; his family lives 30 miles away and can likely avoid the area. My sister’s husband, daughter, granddaughters, and son-in-law pass the site whenever they go somewhere and return. A daily reminder that he killed her there. As we are all still grieving —his family, too—ours feel like we’ve been slammed against the wall again, and for those who pass his name daily at the exact place he killed my sister, it is insult to injury. Please consider this scenario if you have a similar situation. Thank you.

    • PennyAnn Merridew

      Hello sweetheart don’t be sad I had a lady cross over those Centerline and hit us head-on and she killed my sweet Frankie and I was so sad everyday having to drive by there. I wanted to put up a memorial and haven’t better healthier strong enough to do it yet it’s been 2 years my injuries were substantial and the grief has been too hard !!!my medical situation I’m just getting better. But tell your family to put up something in the same place for your beautiful sister so she is remembered. it took me a long time do you understand why this happened why bad things happen ,,but a friend of mine said to me you die twice .you died the day you passed away but then you die again the day no one speaks your name… Wow! Put something up there so when he drives by and your family Drives By they think of her and what a wonderful person she was and everyday you speak her name you think about her and she is still alive because she was so important that people loved her!!! And you’re not going to forget her no matter what those people did!!! so don’t be sad put something up yourself bigger and better than them so she is remembered everyday love and hugs sweetheart I hope this helps it was the only thing that helps me .. I didn’t know how much better I would feel when everyday we will speak Frankie’s name.. we will remember Frankie. we will think about Frankie and even people that or afraid to talk to me about Frankie and didn’t know what to say to me now they know tell me a memory about Frankie tell me what you remember about it keeps him alive everyday!!! Talk about your loved one talk about her everyday you drive by there when you drive by there tell her you love her you miss her tell her something great about her it’s what I do for Frankie everyday or I wouldn’t be able to exist and everyone that speaks to her will show the love for her and that she is not forgotten and and I’m send you angels and I hope you understand what I’m saying the angels will take care of our loved ones but we need to take care of each other and we take care of each other by not forgetting our loved ones hugs stay strong

  2. Sandra Patterson

    Thank you for explaining hat some states consider roadside memorials to be a safety hazard. My sister has been thinking about getting a memorial made fro her friend that died in an accident a while ago. I will send this to her so she can be sure that she doesn’t get in any trouble for honoring her friend.

  3. Meg

    About 6 months ago there was an accident on a main county highway a few miles from my home. The spot where both driver and passenger perished, is on a beautiful piece of property that is always very manicured and pristine. The driver was drunk and speeding and hit a culvert which caused the car to flip up over a fence and the car caught fire. In doing so, a couple of trees burned down on this landowners property.
    I love driving by this farm everyday, until I saw the roadside memorial. At first it was just a cross with fake flowers. Now there are many items which look like papers and other large pieces of trash blowing all over this landowners property. I think it’s disrespectful to not keep this clean as the family and friends of the deceased. I’m sure the owner of the property feels bad or feels they may upset the family members if he removes it and throws it out. I never understood the point of remembering where someone actually died. This is what we have gravesites for. I’m tempted to stop along this highway and remove the trash myself, but it’s not a very safe place to pull over and park. I just know that if it happened on my land, I would have to say no to a roadside memorial. While it is a tragedy and someone lost a friend, I don’t think it’s very respectful to let trash blow all over the road and in someone’s yard. It is an eyesore.

  4. Matt

    I understand someone wanting to put up a memorial but there’s not some need for them. I’m in my 60s in New York and never saw one until about 8 years ago. I’ve never seen a non-christian one and in a short while they just become more roadside garbage. If someone dies in front of your house should we put all this stuff on your property? If a guy falls off a ladder while painting a house should we put crosses where he landed? If someone breaks their neck diving into a shallow pool do we put floating flowers there? If they get killed driving on a busy city street do we have to put this stuff there? Where does this ugly intrusion into beautiful scenery end? Let the dead live in your memory and contribute the flower money to a charity instead


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