Funeral directors and funeral procession escorts have long complained about the lack of consistent traffic laws governing funeral processions in the U.S. Some states have laws on the books granting funeral processions the right-of-way at intersections, while others completely ignore the issue.
The resulting confusion has long dogged the insurance industry, as addressed in this Claims Journal article.
And in recent years, the funeral industry has reported seeing an increase in crashes involving distracted drivers who fail to give a funeral procession the right-of-way in an intersection. When the light turns green in front of them, the drivers immediately proceed into the intersection – even though the procession hasn't completely cleared it yet. Law enforcement officers or other escort providers might be actively directing traffic, but some drivers just don’t notice. The green light triggers an automatic response.
It’s important for fleet drivers to recognize the signs of a funeral procession and to yield the right-of-way to all the vehicles in the procession, without regard to a traffic signal or sign, once the procession has entered the intersection.
Typically, all the cars in a funeral procession have their headlights and tail lights illuminated. Additionally, the first and last vehicles in the procession have their emergency lights flashing, and flags, decals or other signs identify these vehicles as part of a funeral procession.
Some drivers outside the procession may choose to pull over and let it pass by, as a gesture of respect. But in some urban traffic and roadway conditions, that may not be a safe or practical option.
Here are some additional tips, provided by the National Funeral Directors Association, you may want to pass along to fleet drivers:
- Never drive between vehicles forming a funeral procession while they're in motion, except when authorized to do so by law enforcement personnel or when driving an authorized emergency vehicle emitting an audible or visible signal.
- Never join a funeral procession to secure the right-of-way.
- Never pass a funeral procession on a multiple-lane highway on the right side, unless the funeral procession is in the farthest left lane.
- Never enter an intersection, even if you're facing a green traffic control signal, when a funeral procession is proceeding through a red traffic control signal at the intersection, unless you can do so without crossing the path of the funeral procession.
To view a 2014 Fox4 video about the push for funeral procession traffic laws in Texas, click on the photo or link below the headline.