Ada County Highway District

ACHD News Tuesday, June 22, 2021

ACHD Updates Roadside Memorial Policy

The Ada County Highway District has updated its Roadside Memorial Policy, adding in language that would prevent the installment of memorials for individuals deemed responsible for a crash due to driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other criminal activity.

The original Roadside Memorial policy was adopted on August 5th, 2015, by then commissioners Kent Goldthorpe, Jim Hansen, Sara Baker, Rebecca Arnold, and Paul Woods. It was intended to provide a way for families to memorialize their loved ones lost in collisions on ACHD roadways. It has also been used as a reminder to drivers of the important responsibility each of us has to commute safely.

In the past six years, ACHD has installed eight Roadside Memorials throughout the county. The first seven of those memorials were erected and continue to stand with no issue. The eighth memorial however shined a light on areas of the policy that fell short to consider all circumstances leading to a crash.

In December 2020, the District received an application from a family requesting a Roadside Memorial for their family member located at Five Mile and McMillan. It was here that a tragic crash took the lives of two individuals and left two others injured. The application, like those that came before it, was processed internally and a sign was installed shortly after.

This sign, however, was not like those that came before it. In March the District began receiving communication from the public as to their discontent with the sign. The discontent stemmed from the cause of the crash, of which the District's Commission was unaware. It was determined that the individual named on the sign was driving under the influence, which led to the crash and ultimately the demise and injury of those in another vehicle.

Upon hearing concerns from the community, ACHD removed the sign. However, it was determined that nothing under the policy established in 2015 would justify the removal, and therefore the sign was re-erected. The Commission learned that in order to remove the sign and prevent any similar situations moving forward, they would need to change the policy.

The District's General Counsel examined the policy to identify gaps allowing for unforeseen incidences. Additionally, Commissioner Mary May researched similar policies in other jurisdictions and states throughout the country.

"While I was not in favor of having a Roadside Memorial Policy, it was clear that a majority of my colleagues were," said May. "Therefore, if the policy was going to continue, my goal was to ensure that it was modified in a way that would not cause any additional pain through its implementation."

The Commission worked with the District's General Counsel to develop a draft policy to be presented and discussed in front of the public. Adoption of the revised policy was added to the Consent Agenda for the Commission Meeting held on June 2, 2021. During that meeting, Commissioner May requested the agenda item be moved from the Consent Agenda to the Regular Agenda, allowing for public comment.

The new policy was adopted with a 4:1 vote, with Commissioner McKinney voting "nay". "I don't think ACHD should be in the business of putting up memorials, so even though I think this policy is well intended, I'm inclined against having this policy. I would prefer to have really no policy at all," McKinney said. "It's not because I don't have sympathy for those who have lost loved ones in accidents and so on, simply, I think we should not be in businesses of doing roadside memorials."

The newly adopted policy addresses several issues, the most prominent being;

  • Only one Roadside Memorial may be registered for any given traffic accident. If a given traffic accident resulted in more than one fatality, and the Deceased are from different families, then any Applicant seeking to place a Roadside Memorial related to that accident must include with the application signed written consent from the Immediate Family Member(s) of all others who were fatally injured in that accident regarding: (i) whether a Roadside Memorial should be installed and if so, (ii) which names, if any, should appear on the Roadside Memorial. However, no consent shall be required for any Deceased who was directly involved in criminal activity that caused the traffic accident or caused the Deceased's death.

  • No Roadside Memorials shall be installed or erected for any Deceased who was directly involved in criminal activity that caused the traffic accident and/or led to the Deceased's death, including but not limited to, driving under the influence, reckless driving, or fleeing law enforcement officers. In coordination and cooperation with law enforcement, ACHD shall determine if the traffic accident involved criminal activity.

  • For fatal accidents involving alcohol or a controlled substance, and where the driver causing the accident was convicted of vehicular homicide due to driving under the influence, or was fatally injured and shown to have been driving under the influence based on toxicology reports, Applicants may request the ACHD Memorial Sign include specific phrases relating to the cause of the accident, including but not limited to, the phrase "PLEASE DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE" instead of "PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY."

  • The District retains sole and absolute discretion to remove any Roadside Memorial, including if it fails to comply with applicable laws or this Policy.

Additionally, the new Policy puts the burden of production and maintenance on the applicant, a fee that was previously absorbed by the District. The Ada County Highway District is optimistic that the new policy will prevent similar unforeseen situations in the future.

"The policy change was necessary to protect the integrity of the Roadside Memorial program at ACHD. Roadside Memorials are to both memorialize a loss, as well as serve as a cautionary reminder to commuters to travel safely. We believe everyone has a right to grieve and that can be done at a graveside or private property, no matter the circumstance. That said, Roadside Memorials should not cause additional grief to any party. We believe the revisions to the Policy will ensure no undue grief is endured by mourning families. Our hearts go out to all Ada County families impacted by these types of tragedies and we hope they find peace as they remember their loved ones."

View the revised policy

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