Family members who lose loved ones in Chicago car accidents or traffic accidents elsewhere in Illinois will be allowed to buy official memorial markers under a new state law, the Herald-Review reported. The program would permit the markers to then be installed by the Illinois Department of Transportation near the scene of the accident. Technically, such memorials were not permitted under previous law, although road crews often left them alone if they were small and not distracting to passing motorists. The new program, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, is similar to a program already in place for the victims of drunk driving accidents.
In addition to a traditional burial plot, families frequently wish to commemorate the spot where a motorist was last alive. In Australia, a study suggested that as many as 1 in 5 highway fatalities have been honored with a roadside memorial.
The origin of roadside markers in the United States can be traced to the early Hispanic settlers of the Southwest; they were used to mark the place where a coffin was set while pallbearers rested during a funeral procession from the church to the graveyard.
The legality of the memorials varies in the United States. In California, residents must pay a state fee of $1,000. In Colorado, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, the memorials have been banned.
In 2008, a total of 1,043 people were killed in Illinois traffic accidents.