Roadside memorials: Dedication or distraction?

It is rare to drive down a road or highway in Kern County and not pass a roadside memorial. For those who have lost a loved one in a traffic accident, it is a way to mark the place of tragedy. But, some drivers say the memorials are unsightly distractions.

BAKERSFIELD, CA - It is rare to drive down a road or highway in Kern County and not pass a roadside memorial. For those who have lost a loved one in a traffic accident, it is a way to mark the place of tragedy. But, some drivers say the memorials are unsightly distractions.

A trio of pinwheels blow in the wind along 24th Street near Elm Street, next to a white cross and bouquets of bright flowers. "It's there so people do not forget Brandon was run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver," said Gilbert Edmondson.

Gilbert Edmondson said the roadside memorial is a dedication to his nephew, 30-year-old Brandon Weaver, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash while walking along 24th Street in March 2012.

"It's not there to cause a distraction. It's there for a remembrance," he continued.

It is a remembrance some drivers say is a private shrine on public property. "They're popping up everywhere, everywhere," said Leonora Soriano.

Leonora Soriano said roadside memorials can be distracting for drivers. "I can understand their grief, but how long? Will you grieve, how long?" she asked.

Roadside memorials are prohibited in both the city and county. If they are not allowed, why are there so many of them?

City workers say they aren't out looking for memorials. They said they find out about them when someone files a complaint.

"We're sensitive to the matter. We're human as well as them. We know it's their loved ones. We do give them time to grieve," explained Wanda Neal, City Code Enforcement. "Normally we allow them two weeks or more before we take action and ask them to clean them up."

But, Edmondson said he isn't ready to clean up the memorial for his nephew, just yet. Earlier this month, Gustavo Alvarez-Solis pleaded 'no contest' to hit-and-run for Weaver's death. In exchange for his plea, a charge of vehicular manslaughter was dismissed.

Edmondson said Alvarez will be sentenced up to four years behind bars. He said he is now pushing local lawmakers to pass a bill for stiffer penalties for hit-and-run drivers who cause injury or death.

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