Funeral Procession Rules Are Strict


It’s interesting to note that, regardless of the vehicle code in a particular state, funeral escorts in some cities or counties frequently clash with local police. Resentment may be deep enough that police have even arrested funeral escorts for impersonating a peace officer (in Texas, for example). On the other hand, some communities utilize trained community aides, instead of police officers, for funeral escort duty. This frees up officers to do regular police work.

Regardless of any local tensions, specific laws and rules apply for funeral processions. In California, for example:

  • Funeral processions have the right of way. You must yield to them and never obstruct or interfere in any way.
  • All vehicles traveling in a funeral procession must be accompanied by a motorcycle escort. Usually one escort is assigned for approximately every 10 to 12 vehicles.
  • In addition, funeral stickers (often brightly colored) must be attached to front and/or rear windows of each vehicle. These stickers are issued by the company that was contracted by the mortuary to provide the escort service.
  • Escorts also hold up “Turn On Headlights” signs as the procession leaves the mortuary or place of worship. (In addition to required headlights, some states mandate hazard lights to be flashing.)
  • Treat Funeral Processions with Respect

  • All of us should always treat funeral processions with respect, out of common decency.
  • And yes, the directions of a funeral escort should be obeyed, even when they seem to violate the law. One example of “breaking the law” is when you run red lights and Stop signs. Only do that, if the lead escort has ordered cross traffic to stop first and is still gesturing for you, the driver, to come forward. The hand signals and timing of escorts are not always clear.
  • When professionally done, the funeral procession is kept in one lane, usually the left, unless it has to merge onto a freeway ramp on the right.
  • By the way, woe to the non-funeral motorist in another, parallel lane, who doesn’t stop at a red light or Stop sign, before proceeding through it at the same time as the procession! If your vehicle isn’t displaying that company’s funeral sticker, it might be a good idea to just pull over and park where it’s allowed, until the funeral procession has passed on by. But watch your rear and side view mirrors for relays of speeding motorcycle escorts coming up behind you, before you make a move. Then, change lanes or turn safely into a side street away from the procession itself.

    Drivers in the funeral procession should exercise great caution to avoid colliding with any other motor vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians or roaming animals, and should not exceed the speed limit for a particular highway. Be prepared to listen to a lot of shrill whistle blowing from the escorts, as well as voice commands.

    If you can’t attend the burial at the cemetery after the funeral service, you may be trapped in the funeral procession anyway. Escorts can sometimes make it difficult to impossible for any vehicle to leave the mortuary or church parking lot before the hearse leaves first. If that’s the case, everyone is channeled into one long line of cars, and you can’t get out of it, even when you’re on the highway. So, plan ahead for more time than expected when attending a funeral. You might also want to park on the street, so you won’t have to negotiate with a funeral escort inside the parking lot.

    © 2006 Shirley Ann Parker

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