Roadside memorials


POSTED: Saturday, May 02, 2009

Question: Could you find out why the state Department of Transportation allows containers of beer and other alcohol—some opened and half empty—at memorial sites put up by family and friends of the deceased? I understand overlooking the traffic hazard caused by the flowers, cards, stuffed animals and other mementos, but open containers are illegal in public. They can easily be picked up by minors. I find the alcohol extremely offensive and inappropriate especially when it may have been a cause for the fatality.

Answer: The Department of Transportation does have a Roadside Memorial Policy.

While it does not specifically bar alcoholic containers/beverages, those items are not allowed because of the potential hazard they present.

“;This is a very sensitive issue because while we want to give family and friends the time and space to grieve the loss of a loved one, we also need to keep roadways safe and clear,”; said DOT spokeswoman Tammy Mori.

The DOT's policy imposes these conditions:

» The memorial should be placed as far away from the roadway as possible, not obstructing pedestrians or areas where cars might need to pull off the road.

» No memorials shall be placed on any interstate or freeway, including any onramp or offramp.

» Memorials may consist of photos no larger than 81/2 inches by 11 inches; cut flowers and leis; and other items that do not create a hazard.

» Families will be asked to remove the memorial within 30 days. If not, the DOT “;will need to remove the memorial.”;

“;The policy specifically states what the memorial may consist of, and beer or other alcoholic beverages would be an item which would create a hazard on the roadway,”; Mori said.

Anyone seeing a road hazard or driving distraction should contact the DOT (call 587-2160), she said.

The City and County of Honolulu apparently does not have a policy on roadside memorials. A spokesman for Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration did not respond when asked about such a policy.

However, the Honolulu Police Department said while it also is sensitive to grieving family and friends, it is concerned “;any time people put up anything that could be a distraction”; to motorists, said spokesman Maj. Frank Fujii.

He recalled how two young people, mourning the loss of two friends at a roadside memorial in Hauula in 2006, were killed when a car plowed into the crowd.

Regarding open containers, Section 40-1.2(a) of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu says, “;No person shall possess, other than in a container in the manufacturer's sealed condition,”; intoxicating liquor on any public street, sidewalk, park, playground, school ground or off-street parking area, unless specifically permitted.

Fujii said someone could be arrested if caught opening a liquor container by an officer at those public sites. That person could also possibly face criminal littering charges, he said.

Meanwhile, the founder of the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving sees the irony in memorializing someone killed by a drunken driver with a can a beer.

“;MADD believes it certainly does not seem appropriate when alcohol is so often the cause of a crash to then memorialize a person with the very cause of the crash,”; said Carol McNamee.

She said the bottles of alcohol, mostly beer bottles, are probably placed by younger people, “;because that's how they remember their friends.”;

Unfortunately, McNamee said, young people are overrepresented in the numbers of people killed by drunken driving.

“;That's the group that likes to go out and have their beers, and unfortunately they keep getting behind the wheel even after all the education that MADD and others have put forth,”; she said.

Friends placing a beer bottle at a memorial might see it as a reminder of the good times shared with the deceased, “;but I guess they just don't get the irony,”; McNamee said.



I work at the post office by Nimitz Highway. Whenever there is an accident on the freeway, people naturally gravitate to the side streets. So, by the time we get off, the roads are just completely clogged. It takes an hour to get from Valkenburgh to Makalapa streets. If they put a police officer at every major intersection as they do in blackout situations and override the traffic lights, it would expedite traffic flow. It's a no-brainer. We were stuck in traffic last week and didn't see any officers around. Just some food for thought.—No Name