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Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Copyright 1998 Jerry Whiting. All rights reserved.   jwhiting@tripod.net

After David taught me to play The Sobel Game, I began noticing roadside memorials commemorating traffic accident victims.  So often we speed by these public markers of private grief.  They don't even register as a blur.  I stop and take pictures of these roadside crosses.

Many too many appear to be the result of drunk drivers.  Some appear to be tended on a regular basis.  One strong clue is finding pumpkins around Halloween, Christmas decorations in season, notes, notes, momentos, etc.

I get the sense that many are made and maintained by women.  All too often the victims were young.

One can only image that this was the singular most significant event in the survivors' lives.  Given that many are in rural areas, I assume that the community at large has connections to all involved, more so than if it happened in the city.  (Note: the vast majority of these examples are in rural, not urban locations.)

After contacting MADD, I confirmed that they support and encourage survivors building and maintaining roadside markers.

Click on a picture to see larger image.
Some pictures offer alternate views when you hit Next.

Helen with MADD
Roadside trio
Oregon double
N. Cal. trio
S. Oregon
In the bend
Alina
Foil cross 99W
Terry 99W
Rose cross
Mekenzie 99W
Sonia && Scotty
Danelle in the rain
Four with yellow roses
Larry
Jeremy at Xmas
Nathaniel
Elisa and Jay big cross
Willie
Marvin in Salem
Joseph Falcao
Malvern Enevoldsen Eddie Alvarez inverted
Click on a picture to see larger image.
Some pictures offer alternate views when you hit Next.

Though I am absorbed by this tragic folk art, I'm always distressed how easy it is to find new pieces. This isn't something that makes me happy.

I'm working up to contacting the survivors to hear their stories.  Sometimes I feel like a freeway voyeur.  My thought is to begin leaving weatherproof notes stating that I've photographed them and how to contact me.

Do you know of any?  Have you created one or no someone who has?  From now on, will you pay attention to these contemporary cairns?

The practice of making descansos came to the New World with the Spanish.  Also known as crucitas or memorias, descanso means resting.  The practice comes from the tradition of placing stones where pallbearers rested between the church and the cemetery.  Later the stones were replaced with crosses.

The modern interpretation commemorates those who have died in traffice accidents.  I recognize it as a true folk art.  Illegal in some states, I find that at least in CA, the law seems to have little bearing on the practice.  In casual travels outside of San Jose, I found as many as I expected (which is to say, too many).

Other sites with pictures include:

The Tombstone Traveler's Guide
ChrisTina Leimer's picutres taken in TX, NM, and Mexico.  Really great site.
Wisconsin's Roadside Memorials
Mike Schmidt has done a great job documenting roadside memorials in WI.  Good documentation.
Descansos
Anna Marie Panlilio's images of NM memorials are not to be missed.
Roadside Memorials
Beautiful pictures from AZ, UT, ID, and CA by Don Baccus
Roadside Memorials of America
Kevin J. Rodrigues photographed a number of memorials around Las Vegas NM.
jwhiting
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