I had lived in Montana for almost 7 years. In all that time, I had seen many white crosses erected along roads. I assumed that the crosses marked fatal accidents, but like many others, I too wondered about who put them there. I was wrongly even told that it was a Native American tradition to mark fatal accidents with these crosses.
On my last trip to Billings, MT, while driving on the Bear-tooth highway, I finally found out the truth behind these crosses:
- The crosses do represent highway fatalities
- Each cross represents one fatality
- They are a program of the American Legion of Montana and has been in existence from 1953, at which point it became an approved program of the Department of Transportation of Montana.
- The markers can be erected only along Montana highways, as a Federal court ruled that they were illegal along InterState highways (bet you didn't know that)
Read more about the program at "White Cross Information"
I am not sure if such a program exists in other states. I have not seen these in Colorado. I think that they are a very good way to remind road users of slowing down and driving more carefully. More states should definitely adopt such programs.
Here are some pictures from "The Adventure Rider"
And from Tim Traveler's Blog
On a side note, Montana has always done well with road side messages. They currently have a series of signs created by high-school students that attempt to dissuade teens from trying it even once. (http://www.montanameth.org/) The program is called "Paint the State"