The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to erect highway memorials to the victims" of highway crashes involving animals.

Following an accident in May where a cattle truck overturned on an Illinois overpass on Interstate Highway 80 near Hazel Crest, sending 16 cows tumbling to their deaths on the freeway below, PETA says the victims of such crashes deserve to me memorialized with roadside tribute signs.

The Chicago Tribune quotes PETA campaigner, Tracy Patton, as saying cows are intelligent, sensitive animals that feel pain the same way we do, and deserve to be remembered.

"These proposed signs would also remind tractor-trailer drivers of their responsibility to the thousands of animals they haul to their deaths every day," said Patton. "It's a big enough tragedy that these animals end up in slaughterhouses, where they are kicked, shocked with electric prods and finally dragged off the trucks to their deaths. Sparing them from being tossed from a speeding truck and deprived of care afterward, sometimes for several hours, seems the least that we can do."

According to the paper, a state law passed in 2007 allows the family members of victims killed in drunken-driving accidents to request that IDOT install memorial signs along Illinois highways. It's called "Tina's Law" to honor Tina Ball, a road construction worker and mother of seven who was killed by a drunk driver while she was working on Interstate Highway 57 on Sept. 15, 2003. The law was amended in 2011 to allow memorials for any highway fatality, not just DUIs.

"The law was expanded this year partly to discourage the practice of unofficial roadway memorials, such as crosses, stuffed animals and flowers, all of which can be a distraction to drivers," IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell told the paper.

Currently, Illinois laws governing memorial markers say the signs can be requested only by qualified relatives of a deceased victim.

In her applications, Patton asked IDOT to waive the "qualified relative" requirement, citing in an accompanying letter to the state's roadside memorial coordinator the absence of "surviving family members for animals in the meat trade." She applied as a "concerned Illinois resident in lieu of living relatives."

The Tribune reports that while PETA's application marked the first request for an official roadway memorial on behalf of animals, the law is clear, and the application will be denied.

Two previous applications submitted in Virginia, to honor almost 200 pigs killed in traffic wrecks, were also turned down.