It is interesting to note that regardless of the vehicle code in a particular state, funeral escorts in some cities or counties frequently collide with local law enforcement. The resentment may run deep enough that the police have even arrested funeral escorts for posing as a law enforcement officer (in Texas, for example). On the other hand, some communities use trained community assistants, rather than police officers, for funeral escort service. This frees up officers so they can perform regular policing duties.

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

  • Funeral processions have priority of passage. 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. Typically, one escort is assigned for approximately every 10 to 12 vehicles.
  • Additionally, funeral decals (often brightly colored) should be placed on the front and / or rear windows of each vehicle. These stickers are issued by the company that was hired by the mortuary to provide the escort service.
  • Companions also hold “Turn on the headlights” signs as the procession leaves the morgue or place of worship. (In addition to the required headlights, some states require the hazard lights to flash.)
  • Treat funeral processions with respect

  • We should all always treat funeral processions with respect, out of common decency.
  • And yes, the instructions of a funeral escort must be obeyed, even when they appear to violate the law. An example of “breaking the law” is running red lights and stop signs. Just do that yew the main escort has ordered the cross traffic to stop first Y he’s still gesturing for you, the driver, to come forward. Guards’ hand signals and timing are not always clear.
  • When done professionally, the funeral procession stays in one lane, usually the left, unless you have to merge onto a freeway ramp on the right.
  • By the way, woe to the non-hearse motorist in another parallel lane, who does not stop at a red light or stop sign, before passing through it at the same time as the procession! If your vehicle does not display that company’s funeral decal, it might be a good idea to stop and park where allowed, until the funeral procession has passed. But look in your rear view and side mirrors for high speed motorcycle escort relays coming up behind you, before you make a move. Then change lanes or turn safely onto a side street away from the procession.

    Drivers in the funeral procession must exercise extreme caution to avoid colliding with other motor vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians or stray animals, and must not exceed the speed limit for a particular road. Be prepared for lots of high-pitched whistles from the escorts, as well as voice commands.

    If you can’t attend the burial in the cemetery after the funeral service, you might get caught in the funeral procession anyway. At times, the escorts can make it difficult or impossible for any vehicle to exit the morgue or church parking lot before the hearse leaves first. If that’s the case, everyone is funneled into a long line of cars and you can’t get out of it, even when you’re on the road. So plan longer than expected when attending a funeral. You may also want to park on the street, so you don’t have to negotiate with a funeral escort inside the parking lot.

    © 2006 Shirley Ann Parker