Did county jump the gun on memorial sign?


The in basket: Keri Canda feels Kitsap County heightened the abuse inflicted on family members of a man convicted last month of vehicular homicide for causing the death of a woman in January 2008, when it allowed a pair of memorial signs to be put up at the Central Kitsap accident site last year, before the man was even charged.

The county should have waited until there was a conviction before posting the sign, which said “In Loving Memory, Don’t Drink and Drive,” Keri felt. Because of the implication the sign presented to the community, “I have seen a family I care dearly about persecuted by newspapers, school teachers, parents, church members, MADD, gas station clerks… the list goes on,” she said.

“Those signs should not be allowed until the proof has been presented,” she said, “and a conviction has been given by a jury of peers. The family has a right to honor their loved one, but not at the expense of another family with small innocent children who drive past those signs everyday.”

The state requires a court conviction and a tox screen before they’ll allow such a sign to go up on one of its highways, she said. Why doesn’t the county wait?

The out basket: I told Keri that abuse of family members for the crimes of one member is regrettable and cruel. But I expect that media stories that named the offending driver were much more likely than the signs, which didn’t, to have set off such recriminations.

Further, the man now has been charged, convicted and sent to prison last month, so whatever role the signs played in community reaction, it would be happening now, not last year.

But I asked the county why it doesn’t wait for conviction before OK-ing such a sign.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, replies, “Our Memorial Sign program is a bit different than the (state) program. Theirs is called the ‘DUI Memorial Sign Program.’  It’s focus is  ‘a grass roots program, borne from an idea of people who had lost family members in collisions caused by drunk driving. The Department of Transportation has embraced the program as a way to join together with citizens of this state in the ongoing efforts to combat Driving Under the Influence.’ 

“Our program,” he said, “is outlined in our roadside memorial policy. Our focus is ‘to facilitate the grieving process for those family members who have lost a loved one in an automobile-related accident.’ 

The state’s only sign legend is “Don’t Drink and Drive,” Jeff said. “The county’s program includes that, but also includes ‘Please Drive Safely,’ ‘Seat Belts Save Lives,’ and ‘Please Watch for Pedestrians or Bicyclists.’  The requester can post any one of these messages, without regard to the type of accident that happens. 

“The signs do not imply and are not intended to indicate a crime,” he said,”rather are intended to make motorists aware of the consequences of unsafe driving. Under the county’s program, a sign can be installed for the motorist at fault if they are a fatality, and not just for the victim.”


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