Funeral processions…the need to know
I recently had a long-time friend pass away. It was unexpected and was caused by a heart attack. I was able to attend the visitation but was unable to go to the funeral or travel to the cemetery for the burial. Ironically, I was also recently asked shortly afterwards about the responsibilities of drivers who are driving in a funeral procession. Those responsibilities change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Are you aware of what you’re able to do and not able to do if you’re one of those drivers?
I think we all want to do the proper thing, but sometimes we may take a few risks just to keep in line with the procession ahead of us. In most of Canada, including Ontario, you must follow the rules of the road and stop at red lights and stop signs before proceeding. Provinces such as Alberta allow you to continue through red lights and stop signs, provided it’s safe to do so. In most US states and in the UK, you must follow the rules of the road as well. If you’re unsure about your own jurisdiction, check with the leader of the procession, which is usually a member of the funeral home and find out what the rules are of your jurisdiction.
Regardless of those rules that allow the procession to enter intersections on red lights and to run stop signs, they must do so in a safe manner. Right of way is still something that should be given, not taken. Even if your jurisdiction allows for a funeral procession to enter intersections on red lights, you still must ensure other drivers have seen you and are yielding to you and the procession. In some jurisdictions you must have flags attached to your vehicle to indicate you are part of the procession. Drivers will also have their headlights on, but with so many vehicles having daytime running lights now, it’s hard to tell who’s in the procession and who isn’t.
Now, let’s talk about the general population. If you come across a funeral procession you should give way and avoid interrupting the flow by joining in the procession line if you aren’t part of the procession. Please be patient and allow the procession to pass before you proceed. It’s about respect after all, isn’t it? The last time I was in a procession was a year ago for another friend who passed away. Many people who were part of the procession got lost on the way to the cemetery because other drivers interrupted the procession. It can be very difficult and can also be unsafe if you’re just following the driver ahead of you. You’re main focus remains with the driver ahead of you and you may lose focus on the rules of the road and road safety because you’re afraid of losing the procession.
My best suggestion is to find the address of the cemetery and make a route plan to ensure you still know where you’re going in case you lose the procession. This way you can still remain in line of the procession and reduce the risk of attempting to run red lights and stop signs just to attempt to stay with everyone else. There’s always a chance you may catch up to the rest of the procession further up the road, so avoid taking chances. Remember, no one wants to be late for any funeral.