All those white crosses and other makeshift memorials to the victims of drunk drivers along our roadsides would be replaced by memorials erected by the Missouri Department of Transportation under a bill barely squeezing by in the House.
A program to erect memorials to the victims of drunk driving would be established under HB 1406 . Signs bearing the initials of the victims would proclaim "Drunk Driving Victim!" and contain the date of the person’s death followed by the phrase "Who’s Next?"
Rep. Ed Wildberger (D-St. Joseph) is skeptical that the program would deter drunken driving, "I just don’t think that is going to change anyone’s mind."
Sponsor Bill Deeken, a Republican from Jefferson City, though responds that if the program saves one or two lives it has done a good job. Deeken points to highway fatalities to bolster his case for the program. He says of the one thousand traffic fatalities each year in Missouri, nearly half are the result of drinking and driving.
The family could apply with MoDOT to have a sign erected in memory of the victim. The family would have to pay $1,040 for two signs to be put up on both sides of the roadway on which the fatality occurred. The sign will remain in place for ten years. It could remain for another ten years if the family pays appropriate maintenance fees.
"We all know that this is not going to stop drunk driving," St. Louis Representative Tom Villa (D) says during House debate, "It simply isn’t."
Villa also worries about what message the signs would send to tourists driving through the state.
The bill would also prohibit all private roadside memorials. Deeken tells colleagues that already is state law, but MoDOT has been hesitant to enforce it out of respect to the families of traffic fatality victims.
The bill receives the bare minimum needed for passage in the House, 82 votes. Fifty-one representatives votes against the bill, four voted "present" and 21 were absent.