Roadside suggestions not to kill yourself driving seem to be getting more humorous around here, which suggests that someone is trying to improve them. The best advertisements for careful driving I’ve seen are the little white stick crosses tied to trees and telegraph poles with withered flowers and photographs. I doubt I’m alone in finding the death of a real person smashed into a telegraph pole on my usual route more of a prompt to be careful than an actor looking stern at me or a pun (‘slowing down won’t kill you’). Plus nothing makes an activity feel safe like a gargantuan authority calmly informing me of the risks of it. If the government’s advertising something, everyone knows about it, and if there’s no panic or banning, it’s probably safe. A bedraggled, unprepared memorial is a reminder that ‘they’ aren’t really protecting me.

But how could a road authority use these? They could either increase the number or the visibility of them. The usual methods of increasing the number defeat the purpose, and inventing fatal crashes might make people cross. Making memorials more visible is hard, because they are put up by families, besides which the home-made look is valuable, so billboard versions wouldn’t do so well. One solution is just to give bereaved families a bit of the money they usually use on a billboard to construct a temporary memorial of their choice at the site. That way more people would do it, and they could afford more extravagant decoration, so enhancing visibility.

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