There is an increasing tendency for relatives and friends to place flowers and other tributes at the scene of fatal road traffic accidents. There have also been requests for more permanent memorials and this note is intended to advise on this very sensitive subject.
There are several conflicting issues involved and differing views have been expressed.
Views in support of memorials
1. The laying down of flowers can be an important part of the grieving process and people should be allowed to express their grief in this way.
2. A memorial can act as a warning to road users of the possible dangers of the location.
The arguments against include
1. A memorial can create a hazard, distracting passing motorists.
2. The placement and maintenance of memorials can in itself involve a road safety risk.
3. A religious memorial is best placed in a religious setting, e.g. a churchyard or cemetery.
4. Memorials, plaques or signs (eg Remember Me - RoadPeace) placed on the highway, on a wall or existing street furniture may add to clutter.
5. There are insurance and liability issues in the event of an accident occurring as a result of a driver being distracted.
6. A memorial may interfere with routine maintenance such as grass-cutting.
Other relevant factors
1. The Highways Act 1980 has no express provision to license or permit memorials on the highway.
2. There are legal traffic signs specifically to warn of potential hazards.
3. Roadside memorials are a relatively recent development in the UK, there is no tradition or deep cultural reason supporting this practice.
4. There is a difference between laying down flowers and creating a permanent memorial and the judgement as to what is a reasonable time for floral tributes can only be subjective.
5. A bench or tree with a small dedication may be an acceptable permanent memorial as long as there are no road safety implications.
6. The visual impact of memorials will be different in rural and urban locations
7. There is a view that placing memorials on the highway is maudlin and unhealthy.
Good practice Temporary memorials (floral tributes)
It would be insensitive for us to remove fresh floral tributes. We are not qualified to impose a definite cut-off time for when grieving should end. Generally therefore, it is advised to take no action in relation to temporary floral tributes.
There may be exceptions to this for reasons of road safety or if the tributes interfere with road maintenance. In such cases, sensitive approaches should be made to those laying the tributes to explain the situation. Police family liaison officers may be able to assist Surreys Local Transport Service (LTS) in this. Where the person responsible for laying the tribute is unknown, it may have to be removed by the LTS. Each case should be considered on its individual merits.
Road Peace memorial signs (Remember Me) are not covered by current legislation and therefore we cannot authorise the placement of such signs on the highway. Further guidance is awaited from the Department of Transport.
Permanent memorials on the highway are unnecessary additions to the street scene and as such cause clutter, distraction and could obstruct pedestrians or cause injury to road users in the event of a collision. In certain circumstances, a bench or tree (with small dedication) may be an acceptable alternative as a permanent memorial, if a suitable location is available. However, these must be agreed by us and the police, and they should have no detrimental effect on road safety nor affect the ability to carry out highway maintenance.
The above guidance is generally consistent with other policies adopted by other highway authorities in the southeast, including the Highways Agency.
Following consideration of the above guidance and the individual circumstances, we will make the final decision about any roadside memorials, in close liaison with Surrey Police