While we may not want to think about it, death is just another part of life. Hopefully, you haven’t been part of many funerals, but if you have, you’ve probably experienced a funeral procession or two. If not, you’ve probably seen one while you were driving and just didn’t know what to do.
Well, you’re not alone. A lot of people don’t know just what to do when they see a funeral procession on the road ahead of them. For example, take the Jimmy John’s employee that cut into a funeral procession twice while making deliveries. He later received a ticket for failing to yield and lost his job.
There is also the unfortunate case of Carol Struebing, who was killed in 2009 when her sister drove them right into the path of an oncoming funeral procession, not realizing the procession had the right of way.
Rules Of The Road For Funeral Processions
Funeral directors say that driving in or near a funeral procession has become riskier, with people not knowing the rules of the road and the threat of distraction from smartphones or other technology.
The main area of confusion, and the site of most accidents, are intersections. Most of the states have no laws in place regarding funeral processions. In other states, the lead vehicle in the procession must obey traffic signals at intersections, stopping at red lights or stop signs. But once it has gone through the intersection, all the cars behind may follow without stopping— even if the light changes in the middle of the procession.
Currently, Nevada is the only state that lets the lead vehicle go through red lights without stopping. And laws in Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana and North Dakota give funeral processions the right-of-way at all intersections, allowing them to drive through red lights and stop signs.
Not sure of what the rules in your area are? A good tip from Greg Wickert, a partner in the national and international insurance law firm Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, is to treat the intersection like it is uncontrolled. Another tip is to act the same way you would if you see police or emergency vehicles getting ready to run a red light. “This is your life we’re talking about,” Wickert says, “not just a ticket or some inconvenience.”
5 Tips To Stay Safe On The Road
Still unclear? Here are 5 things you can do to make sure you’re safe when you see a funeral procession on the road.
Yield to a funeral procession. Cars in the procession should have their headlights on, and often a flag on the hood as well. The final car in the procession will usually have two or more flags, plus flashing hazard lights to signal they are last in the procession.
If you see the lead car in the procession appropriately go through a traffic light or stop sign, the entire procession will typically follow. Yield the right-of-way until the entire funeral procession has gone through the intersection.
Never join a funeral procession by tagging onto the end or cutting into the middle of one. It can be very disrespectful to the mourners to butt in, not to mention dangerous.
If you’re driving on a highway, don’t pass a funeral procession on the right. The rule for passing slower vehicles on the highway is to pass in the left lane, so not much new here.
Funeral processions will yield to emergency vehicles and the directions of a police officer.
It may seem unfair that funeral processions are given more leniency on the roads, but this comes from years and years of tradition when the first funeral processions were done on foot, carrying the casket. So if you see a funeral procession, proceed with caution. Let’s try to not add anymore tragedy to an already tragic day. Travel safe, friends, wherever you’re going.