It is sadly true what they say – the only things inevitable in this life are death and taxes. When death occurs, it is generally our custom to have a funeral, and along with a funeral comes a funeral procession. We see those from time to time on the streets – a solemn hearse, followed by a line of cars If we are also on the road, sometimes it can be confusing about what we are supposed to do. What is the law, and what is simple etiquette?
Of course, the Georgia Code has an opinion. According to the code, a funeral procession “means an array of motor vehicles in which the lead vehicle displays a sign, pennant, flag, or other insignia furnished by a funeral home indicating a funeral procession unless led by a state or local law enforcement vehicle and each vehicle participating in the funeral procession is operating its headlights.” O.C.G.A. 40-6-76. So this means that a funeral procession has to be headed either by a police vehicle (car/motor cycle) or a marked car from the funeral home, and all the cars in the procession have to have their headlights on.
A funeral procession has the right of way at intersections with only a few exceptions:
1. An emergency vehicle running lights and sirens takes precedence.
2. A police officer directing traffic has the ability to make the funeral procession stop.
If a funeral procession has a police escort, they have the right of way on any roadway. Unlike in normal circumstances, they don’t have yield while turning left or stop at red lights or anything. Of course, in order to avoid future funeral processions, they should make sure the intersection is safe before barreling into it.
If you are not a part of the funeral procession, you shouldn’t interrupt it. Don’t try to drive through or around unless a uniformed officer tells you that you should.
You also can’t just join in a funeral procession by turning on your lights.
If you are on a two lane road, you should never ever ever pass a funeral procession. This is not just for safety reasons – it is against the law to do so, and it is a major social faux pas.
If you violate these provisions, it is a misdemeanor, and you are subject to a fine of up to $100.00.
Like almost everything else in this world, if you obey the golden rule you’ll be ok with the law. If this were your funeral, or the funeral of someone you cherished, wouldn’t you want the other drivers on the road to act respectfully in the presence of the funeral procession? Slow down. Show some dignity. Don’t interrupt, and don’t let your problems (or impatience or lateness) get in the way of basic decency.
Life is short. Take a minute to appreciate that you’re still alive to experience the delay.
Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only.