Daniel Susco
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Driving 101: What To Do When You See a Funeral Procession

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Over the course of the last year, I have been involved with a depressing number of funeral processions. This has clued me into something that bugs me to my core. At least one random driver usually cuts into the line of mourners on the way to the graveyard. So, I figured I would look into what traffic laws, if any, there are regarding funeral processions.

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From state to state, funeral procession laws are a limited and mixed bag. According to a research report from 2004, just Nevada allows front vehicles in a funeral procession to go through a red light unimpeded. In five more, the funeral procession gets right of way at intersections, regardless of traffic signal. A further 15 states let vehicles go through an intersection if the light turns red after the lead vehicle went through.

Of the above states, 11 have statutes against passing through the line, cutting in, or joining in order to skip through red lights. Two more states which don’t have right-of-way laws prohibit cutting in or joining the procession. It seems that largely the practice of getting out of the way of a funeral and waiting for it to pass before continuing is most due to tradition and being respectful.

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However, maybe we should have a clear set of guidelines for when you encounter a funeral procession, if just for that guy I saw the other day in a dealership mobile repair van that nearly crashed into a funeral procession cutting in at an intersection. Hopefully, we can all agree and I won’t have to see jerks like that anymore. So, a few rules:

  • Let the procession go all the way through intersections, even if they have a red light and you don’t. This goes double if there is an escort vehicle with the procession, even if that vehicle isn’t a police officer.
  • Don’t cut into a procession.
  • Don’t cut off a procession.
  • Don’t honk at the funeral.
  • Don’t try to pass a funeral on the right on the highway unless they are in the far left lane.
  • You don’t have to pull over if a funeral is coming in most places, including if you are in the other lane, but if you do, do so carefully and in a safe location.

Really, just try to be sensitive about the fact that the mourners are dealing with their grief. You should drive in such a way that they don’t have to worry about the yahoo in the van, too.

News Sources: Connecticut General Assembly Office of Legislative Research, HowStuffWorks, Dayton Daily News, FuneralWise