Weekly Question

This question comes from the great state of Texas. Roy had an interesting question about freeway etiquette during a funeral procession.

I have a question. It has to do with funeral processions. I know that you should yield whenever you encounter one on a surface road or street, or at a crossing intersection. But what is the the proper behavior when you encounter one on a 4 lane divided highway such as an interstate.
Two incidents happened to me recently and I’m not sure I did the right thing. The first one, I was exiting the interstate on a collector-director type ramp where two traffic lanes, one coming from the left and one coming from the right, merged into one lane just before dumping out onto a major commercial strip highway. I was coming from the left and a line of very slow traffic was merging in from the right. I merged into that line of slow traffic *before* I realized it was a funeral procession. As soon as I realized that, I turned off at the very next intersection and waited for it to pass on by. Should I have done anything different? If so, what?
The second one happened when I was driving out on the open interstate. Suddenly *both* lanes slowed to about 35 mph. (It was a 70 mph zone.) I was stuck there in a line with other cars and trucks, fuming and wondering what the rolling roadblock was all about, when I discovered that there was a funeral procession in the right hand lane. There was one car in the left lane up there about even with the hearse that would not pass the procession and he was holding everyone else back. At first, I thought that car might have been from the funeral home. But it had no special markings or lights and when the procession finally exited the highway, that car sped up and kept going. Now, I thought it was okay to pass a funeral procession on a 4 lane divided highway, but I’m not so sure now. What say you, Motor Cop. Pass or no pass? What are the rules.
Either way, and with all due respect for the deceased, it sure was a pain to have to follow that funeral all the way to their destination exit. (Indeed, by the time the procession finally exited, I felt like I was now part of the family and maybe should have followed it off the interstate and on to the cemetery.)

I gotta say, Roy, no one has ever asked me anything remotely close to this. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules about funeral processions. Although, if there are, I’m sure some of your fellow readers will be quick to enlighten both of us.
That being said, though, I think I can rely on common sense. In your first example, I think you did exactly what you should have done. Having realized you had inadvertently joined the procession, you excused yourself out of it. No harm done, in my opinion. In your second example, I have to fall back on my personal experience in both being a part of and leading processions.
I have been in some processions that have been through rush hour traffic and major interchanges. Processions kind of have a life of their own (pun not intended). What I mean to say is that if we’re in the #1 lane and we need to get to the #4 lane, odds are it won’t be a smooth transition. Motors come in handy because we’re more mobile and can help clear lanes if need be. To the best of my knowledge, though, there’s no law requiring driver’s to not pass or yield.
In my experience, most funerals involving police or fire are well publicized and people know what they’re looking at. A lot of folks will simply pull over, stop, and watch. Some will wave and say, “Thank You.” It’s very moving.
If you’re talking about non-LEO or fire related funerals, I’m relatively sure there’s even less that the vehicle code has to say. Now, I obviously can’t speak for TX law, but I feel relatively confident saying common sense and common courtesy should do you right. Perhaps Texas Ghostrider has more knowledge than I.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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11 thoughts on “Weekly Question

  1. In Texas, there is no one law that specifically addresses funerals. In larger cities the funerals are under police motorcycle escort. If that is the case you yield to the officer or his directions. There is not a state law on cutting in a funeral possession but I know the City of Houston has an ordinance regarding that. I have found that in most rural communities people on both sides of a roadway will pull over for a funeral escorted or not. The bigger cities, there will be police escorts (me). So to answer the question, obey the laws, yield to the lane that it is in, watch for me and my flashing lights and do the right and honorable thing.I am sorry that I can't answer these traffic questions as good as a "real" motorcop but I haven't done traffic in a while. I will see if any of my Texas Cop Buddies, have any better input. TGR

  2. here in georgia, it is customary to pull over on both sides of the road to let the funeral through, even on 4 lane roads.

    I grew up in NH and there was no customary funeral etiquette. The first time i ever passed a funeral procession going the opposite way, i got beeped at by several people for my ignorance on the proper georgia etiquette.

  3. Reminds me of one of my last directives – attach large sign on side of beginning procession and randomly throughout > Drive like you normally do. I'm beyond where I really care if you pull over." Besides, some of these funeral go about 5 mph through town, up to 30 mph out of town to the local cemetaries out of town. Just enough to make your day.

  4. There is actually a new law in Kentucky covering funeral processions that involve large fines, but I don't know the details. It was just passed within the last couple of years.

  5. I live in Cali, and I've come across funeral processions a couple of times on a two-lane rural road and no one stopped or pulled over going to opposite way. There was really no way to pass the 11 cars that were stuck behind the procession to pass them all; no one wanted to get between them, so we all just waited.

  6. Funeral Laws in Houston:
    "There are laws governing funeral processions and while the law states it is illegal to cut between vehicles in the procession, there is no specific law that states you cannot pass one. There is also a law that requires funeral processions to be escorted by police. Since you are required by law to obey police officers, any instructions given to you by the officers are mandatory. If the officer instructs you not to pass, then it would be illegal for you to pass. Sooner or later officers escorting a funeral procession have to get them off the freeway by moving them from the left lane to the right. The officers would not want you passing on the right if they are getting ready to move the procession over to the right."
    – Stephen Copeland, a sergeant with the Houston Police Department’s major offenders division.

  7. In Ontario, the 401 (our biggest highway — up to 16 lanes wide in some sections) also acts as the Highway of Heros. This is the portion between our main Air Force base in Trenton and the Coroner's office in Toronto where our soldiers killed overseas are brought for their autopsy. Everytime a soldier dies overseas and is brought home we have a repatriation ceremony and then citizens, fire departments, police officers etc. stand and wave flags on all the overpasses between the base and the coroners office.

    We've been told it's illegal to pull over when the procession passes. You aren't to stop on the 401 at all unless its an emergency. As such, usually what happens is vehicles continue in the right lane and the procession speeds passed (not necessarily literally, as traffic slows to watch) in the left lane.

  8. I wonder if the car pacing the hearse was deliberately trolling… and the fact that I am thinking this probably means I need to get away from the Internet more often.