At the risk of unleashing a river of vitriol I want to address roadside memorials. As drivers we are told that nothing should distract our attention, so no mobiles, loud music, or if the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has their way, no smoking. In the past Eva Herzigova’s advert for Wonderbra caused a string of accidents caused by male drivers being distracted by her female charms displayed on very large hoardings around London.
[T]he appearance of these shrines in England is all the more surprising since the tradition is alien to Protestant cultures. They are contrastingly common in Spain, parts of Austria and much of South America. But I’m getting fed up with seeing these mounds of flowers, soft toys or football shirts placed at the side of the road in this country .
Understandably relations and loved ones of the deceased will get some solace and closure from these shrines, but they are messy and distracting. You crane your neck to try to find out who the victim might be and if there are toys around the base you lose your concentration momentarily.
And what’s the point? Surely you pay your respects at the resting place of your loved one not a lamppost beside the A40. Councils will now remove any homemade signs attached to street signs, so why do they let this clutter remain at the roadside?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents believes there are important safety messages to be drawn from the trend. “The increase in the number of shrines just highlights how dangerous our roads are,” said a spokeswoman.
But the Society is concerned that the shrines may themselves increase the risk of accidents. “It isn’t something we would like people to stop doing but it’s important they take extra care. The same applies to motorists because it’s easy for them to take their eyes off the road for even a second.”
How about a small plaque in a distinctive colour placed where people have died this could serve the dual purpose of a modest memorial and with its distinctive colour a reminder to motorists?