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Old 10-14-2011, 12:46   #1
badlands99
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Funeral Processions Questions - Escorts and Protocols

I was in heavy daytime traffic in Charlotte, NC when the car in front of me simply stopped for no apparent reason, in the left lane of a two lane road. I would have guessed they were having mechanical trouble, then I saw the line of cars with headlights approaching from the opposite direction. This caused me to wonder about how these things are really supposed to be done.

I assumed that just stopping in the middle of traffic is not what is expected, so I asked my friend Google and here's what I found...

North Carolina General Statutes § 20-157.1 Funeral processions

(snip)

(g) The operator of a vehicle proceeding in the opposite direction as a funeral procession may yield to the funeral procession. If the operator chooses to yield to the procession, the operator must do so by reducing speed, or by stopping completely off the roadway when meeting the procession or while the procession passes, so that operators of other vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction of the procession can continue to travel without leaving their lane of traffic.


I always want to be respectable to the family of the deceased, but I'm not sure the best way to do that without creating a traffic hazard. What do you guys think? Let's assume we're talking about an urban/suburban area where it is not an option to pull completely off the road.

Also, while we're on the topic, I'm curious about the escorts. Is this a service provided by the department, or are these extra-duty gigs where you're hired by a funeral director?

Many thanks in advance.
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Old 10-14-2011, 13:16   #2
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Not sure what kind of funeral you're talking about. If it had escorts, was it a military/public service worker (policeman, fireman) funeral?

We had a soldier from a smaller town here killed in action two summers ago. From the moment he landed, there was a huge police escort (about 50 squad cars) and everyone stopped everywhere - both lanes of traffic, all four lanes on the interstate which was part of the route from the airport - and most people planned this, got out of their cars and were holding flags with their heads bowed - It was about a five mile trip from the airport to the funeral home and another 12-15 miles the next day from the funeral home to the cemetary. Same thing happened both days. I'm guessing around 5000 people lined the roads. I think shutting everything down for 10 minutes to show honor and respect to someone like that is totally appropriate.

Now, if we did this for everyone who dies, we'd shut down all traffic in our suburban town two to three times a day. That's unnecessary, in my opinion.

My dad died last month. He was a professional firefighter for 29 years in our town, and he was in the military for 29 years (20 of it reserves). He had a military funeral and the hurst was a pumper. He served during three wars, but never was sent to a combat theater, and he was injured once and in some spectacular fires, but he died at 80, at home, from cancer. Myself, I didn't feel he needed the respect/honor afforded to someone who had died in the line of service like the soldier I described above. But I can't tell you how impressive and humbling to me it was to watch as all the traffic in both directions on every street the procession went down, including our city's main, 4-lane thoroughfare, stopped in all directions as we passed by. People even stepped out of businesses and restaurants and stood silently with heads bowed as the procession passed by.

The one good thing that came out of 9-11 is that it seems to have resurrected some appreciation and respect for our public servants that had been so badly diminished due to the 1960s. I think people feel better about public servants and even themselves, when they show this little mark of respect for someone who served others. It sure made me feel a heck of a lot better about my fellow citizens, rather than the media-imposed, partisan, us-against-them political in-fighting we do with one another so much. Watching that made me feel like we were all together, as Americans, for a change...
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Old 10-14-2011, 19:19   #3
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I think it depends on two things, state laws, and local customs. Here we tend to slow down for the funeral procession in the opposite lane except on divided four lanes and such like. The funeral home vehicles usually have amber lights flashing and the procession behind has head lights on, so everyone has an idea that is is a procession. Also, the patriot guard is usually in attendance for military, law enforcement, and other EMS deaths in the line of duty funerals. I have stopped traffic behind me whenever we had a special rolling event coming through town that involved law enforcement, had my head lights on, and hazard signals flashing. It seems to always have been appreciated by other LE coming through in the opposite lane.
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Old 10-15-2011, 07:15   #4
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There are some regional differences. Some areas in the South, it's common for traffic in both directions to completely stop. That's for any funeral procession, not just military/LE or escorted.
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Old 10-15-2011, 08:11   #5
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The funeral escorts are provided by the Sheriff's Department unless it's a police officer. They are off duty gigs and the family hires two Deputies to escort the procession because people will break in to the procession and cut because they have no common sense.

What I do (and I hope everyone does) is to pull to the right lane and stop while the procession passes. It will typically pass in 1-2 minutes and you'll be on your way again. If it's a two lane road, then pull over as far as you can on the shoulder, since the other lane will be doing it too and it'll make it easier for the procession to pass.

It does make it more respectful and I know it goes a long way with the family to see other people stopping for a moment to pay respects.

ETA: No one should just stop in the left lane. That creates a traffic hazard and could easily cause an accident. That driver should have pulled to the right and stopped.

Last edited by merlynusn; 10-15-2011 at 08:13..
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Old 10-15-2011, 17:04   #6
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As above...in the south it is common for all traffic to stop for a funeral procession out of respect. However it is not an off duty gig everywhere, here it is common for local LE to provide the escort as a service to the community.
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Old 10-15-2011, 19:39   #7
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Originally Posted by ray9898 View Post
As above...in the south it is common for all traffic to stop for a funeral procession out of respect. However it is not an off duty gig everywhere, here it is common for local LE to provide the escort as a service to the community.
We did that in MS also. For regular traffic, it was not uncommon to see everyone hit the shoulder of the road when a funeral procession approached from either direction. Its about respect.

As for the PD, we provided funeral escorts and traffic controls to any funeral home that requested it. We provided a police car in the front to pull the procession. One in the rear that stopped all traffic so the procession could enter the roadway safely, then make sure no one tried to pass it. We also stationed on-duty units at the major intersections the procession would cross. We would stop all traffic and allow the procession to safely cross through the intersection.

While each officer was at his assigned post, they would snap to attention, render a salute to the hearse and first 5 cars immediately following. Then, he would remain at attention until the entire procession had passed.

Didn't matter if the deceased was a prince or pauper, all received the same final respects from our agency.

On a slightly related note, one of the most proud moments of my career was having the honor of pulling the procession for my grandfather, who was a previous 4-term mayor of my city. He was the one I looked up to and being able to pull his procession was something I will cherish to the rest of my days.
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Old 10-15-2011, 20:06   #8
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I work at a funeral home (did a limo today in procession).

Here in Indiana, law states you must pull over. However, our escorts are not going to ticket anyone (no time and they're not 'on duty'. Some are active cops, some retired, some do it as a hobby). Second, the escorts will purposefully tell vehicles to continue on, waving them on, depending on traffic and the direction we need to go. At stop lights, if there is a vehicle waiting at a red light to go straight, the escorts will allow them through on red since we're only going 20mph, or less. By the way, our escorts only use bikes, even in winter (they put a side-car on).

Out of respect, people should pull over, of course. I've had people pull over, get out of their car, and place their hand over their heart as we go by.

It wasn't our service, but one of the motorcycle escorts we use had a fatal crash about 1 1/2 ago in procession. I've seen many close calls. Seen two rear end crashes of people not paying attention, in my five years in funeral biz.

I've done two police services and two soldier services (one Iraq, one Afghanistan). All times, we had multiple state, city, and county police escorts. Four bikes on each corner of our coach, five additional leading, and 4-6 motorcycles playing leap frog through intersections. Plus, pre-stationed marked police cars blocking each intersection during our route.
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Old 10-15-2011, 20:07   #9
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Last funeral procession I was in, people didn't stop. Not only didn't they stop, they cut into the procession to make turns. After a couple times, people got close enough that they couldn't cut in, they honked and flipped us off. This was in Dearborn, so I guess this is the first phase of radical Muslims taking over the country. First the funeral processions, then....

Hate getting stuck behind people that leave too much space between cars in the procession. They left a huge gap, didn't follow closely enough going through a red light left turning through oncoming traffic, approaching cross traffic saw the break, thought procession was over, and continued through, forcing us to then stop for the red light. This one I can't blame on the Muslims, it was a ridiculously large gap, 10-15 sec, no reason for them to think there were more cars in the procession. The final car from funeral home must have called the hearse on a cell and told them to stop, they did wait for us, we were able to catch up. Strangest procession I've ever been in.

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Old 10-15-2011, 20:36   #10
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Originally Posted by ray9898 View Post
As above...in the south it is common for all traffic to stop for a funeral procession out of respect. However it is not an off duty gig everywhere, here it is common for local LE to provide the escort as a service to the community.

LE escorts stopped here after a motorcycle officer was hit and killed by an absent-minded driver.


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Old 10-16-2011, 07:22   #11
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Non LODD processions are done by a private outfit in our area with a mix of reserves, retirees and whatnot using their own equipment. Too much liability and risk for off duty use for LE agencies so we don't do it (and frankly, I won't).

Can remember a jackwagon on a bike getting mad when I had to go code to a call through one of their processions. Then there was the rider who went down to avoid a crash, only to be arrested later at the hospital for felon in possession of a firearm.

I'm torn on funeral processions as I have dictated to my survivors that there will be NONE, even if I fall due to a LODD. I can see the honor but sure I see the need anymore.
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Old 10-16-2011, 08:06   #12
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Originally Posted by badlands99 View Post
I was in heavy daytime traffic in Charlotte, NC when the car in front of me simply stopped for no apparent reason, in the left lane of a two lane road. I would have guessed they were having mechanical trouble, then I saw the line of cars with headlights approaching from the opposite direction. This caused me to wonder about how these things are really supposed to be done.
This happens a lot in the South. I had a similar situation as yours and I nearly rear ended the guy.

Some drivers have a bit misguided idea of road courtesy as with your example.

Another thing some people do here on two lane roads is if one car is trying to make a left; the on coming driver will stop to let them turn - not realizing that there are people behind them and that the person making the turn can not see if there is a car in the right lane.
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Old 10-16-2011, 08:18   #13
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It does make it more respectful and I know it goes a long way with the family to see other people stopping for a moment to pay respects.
The tradition made sense in small towns when people knew the deceased.

Now the people who stop along the road (not talking about military or police funerals etc.) do not know if they are stopping for a good person or a criminal who died. It doesn't seem right to me to pay respects to a child molester or similar.
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:07   #14
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Most folks are Good. And death is final. We always pull over in a safe manor and honor the dead with a scant amount of our time. ( Meaning my wife and I ) And other locals.

I was on the hwy mid day last week driving back to the office. 25 miles or so south of Tulsa I saw a funeral procession heading south on hwy 75. You couldn't miss it. I got on the shoulder, turned on my hazard lights and waited for them to pass. As did a few other folks. A few acted like they never saw it coming and stabbed the brakes then sped back up while others didn't have a care in the world for the dead, family members and friends.
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Old 10-16-2011, 13:39   #15
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Most folks are Good. And death is final. We always pull over in a safe manor and honor the dead with a scant amount of our time..
As do I, it's the right thing to do.
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Old 10-17-2011, 16:47   #16
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As above...in the south it is common for all traffic to stop for a funeral procession out of respect. However it is not an off duty gig everywhere, here it is common for local LE to provide the escort as a service to the community.
This. When I am out with a road crew, we stop everything while the procession goes by.

And cutting into a funeral procession or trying to go around it WILL get you a ticket, in Texas.
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