Morgan Pritchett
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Driving 101: What To Do When You See a Funeral Procession

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close up of car with driving etiquette spelled out

You’ve probably seen a long line of cars following a hearse at some point in your life, whether you were driving or just a passenger. But what are the rules, if any, regarding funeral processions? Do you need to pull over? Does traffic stop completely on both sides of the road? Be sure to check out these tips and follow your local traffic laws to ensure you’re not encroaching on a deeply emotional moment or causing unnecessary chaos with your driving habits.

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From state to state, funeral procession laws are a limited and mixed bag. According to a report from the Office of Legislative Research in 2004, the state of Nevada allows front vehicles in a funeral procession to go through a red light unimpeded. In five more states, the funeral procession gets right of way at intersections, regardless of the traffic signal. An additional 15 states let vehicles go through an intersection if the light changes to red after the lead vehicle has already gone through.

It turns out that only 11 of the aforementioned states have statutes against passing through the line or joining the procession in order to get through red lights. Two states which don’t have right-of-way laws prohibit cutting in or joining the procession, too. While the laws vary greatly from state to state, it seems that the practice of simply getting out of the way and waiting for a funeral procession to pass is due to tradition and being respectful.

Funeral procession
Photo: Carl Lender via CC

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If you’re not sure how to act, remember that the people who are in that long line of cars are on their way to bury a loved one and that you should be considerate of that. You should also follow these general tips to ensure that you’re not the asshole who everyone shakes their head at when a funeral procession drives by:

  • Let the entire procession go through intersections, even if they have a red light and you don’t.
  • Don’t cut into a procession or cut off the lead vehicle. You could cause a chain reaction of fender benders.
  • Don’t honk your horn.
  • Don’t try to pass a funeral on the right side when on the highway unless they are in the far left lane.

The thing is, you technically don’t have to pull over for a funeral procession in most states. But it costs you zero dollars to be a decent human being and drive with some decency when you see one.