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Red John
05-04-2005, 09:27 PM
I've been browsing this board off and on for some months now, and the occasional reference has been made to funeral processions and their escorts.
As the topic has some bearing with the law, I felt this an appropriate venue to address the issue. Moderators, if I am in error please feel free to move this with my apologies.
The legality of funeral processions varies wildly from state to state, in many eastern states funeral escorts are not permitted to operate red or blue lights, instead opting for purple. They also have no actual legal authority to hold up traffic; although the practice is tolerated by local LEO agencies as otherwise it would tie up officers whose presence is required elsewhere.
Other states do give the legal authority to the funeral escorts, but still deny them the use of any emergency lights, as in California where funeral escort riders utilize yellow lights to announce their presence.
However, in Arizona (the state in which I reside and work.) we are granted the use of both red and blue emergency lights, and given complete authority to operate as emergency vehicles.
One can likely google the actual law; ARS 28-776.
Some questions and many complaints have arisen about the manner in which we operate.
I'd like to take this opportunity to address a few of these.
You can't hold up traffic for this!
Actually we are required to by law, just as state law requires that all traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian yield the right of way to a funeral procession.
Why do you have to stop traffic for the funeral, it's not like he's going to be late for anything.
Many cemeteries have a burial time that must be kept, there are often as many as six to a dozen funerals taking place in any given cemetery on any given day. Personnel to run these services are limited, so each funeral is given a designated time slot at which they must arrive at the cemetery in order to avoid a pile up of several hundred vehicles and mourners on the grounds.
I don't have to listen to you, you're not a cop!
This is correct, I am not an LEO, I've seen what officers have to deal with on a daily basis, and I want no part of it. However, neither are Fire or EMT's police officers. Often they are individuals who work (as I do,) for a private company. Civilians are none-the-less required, by law, to yield the right of way when they are running code with lights and siren, and to follow their direction when and where their authority is in effect.
We do make every attempt to minimize the impact of a funeral procession upon traffic flow, utilizing as often as possible less frequented roads and routes that go around major traffic areas.
There are times however when the family members require a 'drive by' of the deceased's residence, place of business or other location frequented by the deceased. Such times we often unavoidably are forced to take major roads, and as much as we despise traveling them, freeways.
Occasionally we are running a procession that may include as many as 200+ vehicles, this unavoidably causes traffic snarls of nearly biblical proportions.
This is not helped by those who cut into the procession hoping for a free ride across town, (another legal no-no.) or others who refuse to yield the right of way forcing several miles of procession to come to a grinding halt.
Which in turn makes even more people upset, causing them to cut into the procession, pull in front of it, or even worse attempt to dart through the middle of it. This invariably occurs just as one of our riders is making time up the length of the procession. Several white hairs on my head can be traced back to just such events.
We actually have an outstanding safety record, given that we've been in business for over forty years, we have had three riders killed during a procession, each of those fatalities was due to an impatient driver who simply could not wait for another thirty seconds for the procession to pass.
There are four other companies in the Phoenix Metro area who provide funeral escort, and without naming names, I have seen some practices that are rather questionable.
One company in question has been busted a few times for impersonating an officer, and I honestly am at a loss to understand why their permit has not been pulled. This company makes every effort to appear as LEO's, down to the paint scheme of their cars as well as uniforms and duty belts.
Why a funeral escort needs to carry a gun is beyond me, perhaps they've merely seen 'Night of the Living Dead' one to many times.
Our uniforms do not even vaguely resemble anything worn by any Law Enforcement agency in Arizona that I am aware of, and the only thing clipped to our belts in our radio.
We have worked funerals with both the Maricopa County Sheriff, as well as several police forces in the Metro area, and while I will not claim we are all close friends, they have gone out of their way to assist us when they've seen us passing through their patrol area. Such assistance is greatly appreciated.
I hope this clears up some issues, and any further questions that I can answer I'd be happy to do so.

-Red John

Bodie
05-05-2005, 05:04 AM
In Ohio a funeral procession may proceed thru a red light as long as the lead car entered the intersection on green. You are not permitted to stop traffic for a funeral unless of course common sense prevails that the funeral procession is very long and to not help with traffic would make the traffic situation worse.

In cities people (drivers) show no respect for processions cutting them off and even passing them etc. In rural areas you still see people pull off to the side and wait till the funeral passes.

Many rural counties send a crusier to escort the procession free of charge if one is available

In Central Ohio there used to be Deputies that owned their own motorcycles that escorted funerals and wewre paid by the funeral homes. They worked for private companies owned by a Former Sheriff's Lt.
Two companies still offer excort services with motorcycles but they have their own uniform and can't stop traffic like deputies used to be able to do.

The ohio legislature is looking at ways to make processions safer and to give Sheriff's liability protection for deputies escorting as special duty etc.
The Ohio Funeral Director's Association is pushing for changes.

Creed
05-05-2005, 08:36 AM
In cities people (drivers) show no respect for processions cutting them off and even passing them etc. In rural areas you still see people pull off to the side and wait till the funeral passes.

That's just sad. NO respect.

Java King
05-05-2005, 08:36 AM
I respect the fact that someone is laid to rest peacefully.
However, I'm putting in my death request early. When I die, DO NOT hold up traffic on my account. There's nothing more annoying than sitting through several light cycles due to a funeral line! Where I'm at, this creates a traffic jam log & takes a long time to get the traffic back at normal flow. I don't care what the cemetary's schedule is! Too bad, all of us have schedules to keep in life! Tell the people in the funeral line to leave early or something. Again this is just my view, doesn't mean it's right or wrong. I certainly do not want to hold up the world in a traffic jam when I die! :mad:

Tennsix
05-05-2005, 10:04 AM
In Indiana, a procession is empowered to go through red lights and stop traffic. Funeral home vehicles may display red/blue lights and siren. Moreover, all traffic is required to yield to them. Any interference is subject to a traffic citation.

In my town, a cop runs a motorcycle escort service. All of the bikes are authorized emergency vehicles and are operated by off-duty active or retired police officers.

DaveinUtah
05-05-2005, 10:07 AM
Having lived in several states, I have always been taught to pull over and give the right of way to funeral processions. I don't know what the laws were in these states, but it is just respectful in my opinion.

Red John
05-05-2005, 10:13 AM
In cities people (drivers) show no respect for processions cutting them off and even passing them etc. In rural areas you still see people pull off to the side and wait till the funeral passes.

The same holds true here as well. On multilane roads (three or more lanes of traffic) I've waved traffic in the third lane on through (moving the same direction as the funeral) if it begins to pile up, purely as a safety issue. Drivers can become very impatient rather quickly, and that impatience can cause them to behave in rather reckless ways.
I usually do not mind civillian traffic passing the procession in urban areas, even with the increased risk involved when I'm passing on the way back up to the front.


There's nothing more annoying than sitting through several light cycles due to a funeral line!

I agree with you, having been caught by a funeral procession while on my way to escort another funeral.
The vast majority of the processions we'll escort usually consist of no more than 30-40 vehicles, and I've even had a few that were simply the hearse and a limo with the family. We have most processions through an intersection with no more than one cycle of the light, if that.
Even the larger processions would move through much more quickly if civillian traffic would both yeild and refrain from cutting into the procession, causing it to slow down and streach out even further.
When we do have a huge procession we are attempting to get across town, we're not happy to be out there either, and we'd really just like to get the thing into the cemetary and out of everybody's way.

Red John

Cruiser
05-05-2005, 10:23 AM
In SC one of only two things have the absolute right to proceed through a red light and that is a Funeral Procession. Whenever I did one I noticed that people pulled to the side of the road for the most part coming the oppisite way. Going in the same direction they would sometimes pull to the side and NOBODY ever passed one. I have even seen people get out of their cars and stand there with their hand over their heart or with head bowed. That in a moderate sized city and actually one of the largest in SC. The family paid the funearal home for a police escort if they wanted one and we did it with just lights flashing and if possible used a motorofficer or someone who was not on duty. We would always stop for a red light but if and when it happened in the middle of the procession then they went through it. One of the very good reasons for this is to aviod some people racing to catch up which is dangerous. On certain processions NOTHING moved until we went by. These were usually city or county leaders or police officers or ex-police officers.

m_smith16
05-05-2005, 01:01 PM
I pull over and yield the right of way to the funeral procession.. However, I know funeral homes are supposed to give everyone in it a flag to put on their car so you know who is in the procession. Seems around here they are always short of those flags so you really dont know where it ends and you get people who try to sneak across the red lights with it and or cut into it by accident.



I was involved in a funeral procession about 2 months ago, Where I am from its up to the diver if they pull over or not. I do believe the flags are a GREAT idea, but why can't an officer follow the processcion if they are at an early red light or free of calls to say I am the last car. This seems pretty simple to me, but I come from a small city.

I have even heard of people get on there hands and knees to pray, and remove all caps to. The way I look at it is, its the family and friends right to have traffic stop for them. Also to show respect to the person who died.

Dragoon44
05-05-2005, 03:39 PM
it is long past time that the archaiac ritual of the funeral procession is itself laid to rest.

Max Fischer
05-05-2005, 05:07 PM
I agree that the process is old and is designed to show respect. I live in Metro Phx, and this city is too damn big to shut down traffic at just about any time. I never mind pulling over so that LE, and EMS units can get to where they need to be. I do appreciate learning about funeral homes, etc. but honestly, for the prices these places charge, they can wait for the family to arrive.

I have seen numerous occasions in Phx where some total tools drive into the middle of the intersection and start blowing whistles and giving the most vague hand signals you have ever seen. It looks like they are trying to land an aircraft from a old movie!

I am very sensitive to a grieving family and their needs, but this practice is silly and needs to go.

Red John
05-05-2005, 07:16 PM
I agree that the process is old and is designed to show respect. I live in Metro Phx, and this city is too damn big to shut down traffic at just about any time.

While I understand your viewpoint, a funeral procession is usually something that is passed through an intersection fairly quickly in most cases.
99% of the time we will hold up traffic for one complete cycle of the light at most.


I never mind pulling over so that LE, and EMS units can get to where they need to be. I do appreciate learning about funeral homes, etc. but honestly, for the prices these places charge, they can wait for the family to arrive.
That would work if the cemetary, church and the mortuary were opperated by the same company, unfortunatly this is not always the case.


I have seen numerous occasions in Phx where some total tools drive into the middle of the intersection and start blowing whistles and giving the most vague hand signals you have ever seen. It looks like they are trying to land an aircraft from a old movie!

I've seen some rather moronic practices myself by funeral escorts, both from my own company (those individuals never employed by us for long) as well as from some of the others who opperate in the valley.
I would be curious however, as to which 'total tools' you are refering to in this instance, could you perhapes describe the uniform?


I am very sensitive to a grieving family and their needs, but this practice is silly and needs to go.

As this silly practice is currently paying my bills, I can't quite agree with you here.
As an interesting sidebar however, I was once resoundly cursed up one side and down the other by a young man who was rather unhappy at being held up by a funeral procession. He continued to hurl insults at myself, the deseased and thier family until the funeral had passed through and I'd left the intersection.
Some months later, as we are waiting outside a church to take another procession across town this same young man walks up to me and appoligizes profusely and unendingly for his behavior.
It turned out that it was his mother in the hearse this time, and he'd undergone a rather profound change of heart about the whole issue.

Red John
Edited to correct the qoute feature.

Max Fischer
05-06-2005, 03:44 PM
Red John,

You make some great points, it is interesting to get your perspective. I think you're right, until you need those services, it is easy to dismiss them. That is cool that t cranky guy apologized.

Also, I hope you guys use cars in the summer instead of motors, it is way too damn hot here, huh? The AC will save your life.

Take care.

1sgkelly
05-06-2005, 05:28 PM
"Why do you have to stop traffic for the funeral, it's not like he's going to be late for anything."

My answer:

So where the hell are you going in such a hurry, a haircut, the 7-11, home, work. So get a life and show a little class, even if you have absolutely none.
:mad:

Shut up, sit still and think of what you are going to do between now and your last ride; which may be tommorow.
:eek:

1sgkelly
05-06-2005, 05:31 PM
Screw them all but nine.

Six for pall bearers.

Two for road guards.

And one to count cadence.

Red John
05-06-2005, 09:01 PM
Red John,

You make some great points, it is interesting to get your perspective. I think you're right, until you need those services, it is easy to dismiss them. That is cool that t cranky guy apologized.

Also, I hope you guys use cars in the summer instead of motors, it is way too damn hot here, huh? The AC will save your life.

Take care.

Thank you Max, I appreciate that quite a lot actually.
No cars for us, frankly I don't see how some companies do this in cars at all, often we'll have to split between traffic in order to get up to an intersection.
It is way too damn hot here in the summer, I always joke that I know when summer officaily hits is when my boots start sticking to the tar strips.

Red John

Red John
05-06-2005, 09:52 PM
I pull over and yield the right of way to the funeral procession.. However, I know funeral homes are supposed to give everyone in it a flag to put on their car so you know who is in the procession. Seems around here they are always short of those flags so you really dont know where it ends and you get people who try to sneak across the red lights with it and or cut into it by accident.

I missed this one the first time around, my apoligies.
Several years ago it was standard practice to give each vehicle in the procession a yellow window sticker which read 'Funeral'. Unfortunatly many people decide at the last moment that they would take part in the procession, or as you said, they would run out of the stickers.
All we can do at this point is to make sure that every car has it's headlights lit when we leave, but due to the prevelance of daytime running lights it really is not as noticable as it once was.
Some funeral homes ask the drivers to turn on thier four way emergency lights, which is very effective, but many drivers surprisingly do not know where the button is in thier car to turn them on.
Another poster here also made a comment about having a trailing unit follow the procession to identify what the last vehicle is, personally I love the idea. But in all practicality, it is not always possible due to the lack of an 'extra' escort to pull only this duty.
Often vehicles that do cut into the procession have done so unwittingly, and I do attempt to take this into account when pulling them back out.
Usually, I'll politely as possible indicate to them to pull into the far right lane.
Unfortunatly in order to get thier attention I'll have to use either the siren on my motorcycle, or pull up next to thier vehicle and point rather firmly to the next lane.
Niether of which can really be done in a manner which communicates; "I'm sorry sir/madam, you have inadvertantly pulled into a funeral procession, would you please use the other lane to travel in?"
I do not really have the time to have them roll down thier window to explain this to them (most of the time, there have been exceptions.) as I'm also attempting to get up past the procession quickly enough to hold the next intersection before the procession arrives.
As such, I'm fully aware that my direction ends up coming across more like; "Pull over you idiot! I don't care if you don't know what the heck I'm doing!"
I really do try to minimize this attitude from coming across, but it is not always possible to do so to a degree that will allow me to both remove the driver from the procession and make my way back to the front without ruffling
some feathers.

Red John

Red John
05-07-2005, 02:36 PM
Sometimes someone will pull out from an uncontrolled intersection. We direct them over to the side until we are through. IF they are insistent, they get a brief lecture on respect and honor for the deceased. Some have been brought to tears by our heartfelt explaination of the courtesy that is expected from the living.

Could I possibly get a transcript of said lecture? I'm not sure if it would apply for us, but you never know... :p


We rarely use an interstate, but have on occasion. That is pretty cool when you shut down a 5 lane interstate highway to let the procession enter, then WOT all the way back to the front. :D We also do that for other escorted events, Rolling Thunder, the Law Ride, POTUS escorts, etc.

Arizona DPS gets rather perturbed with us if we attempt to shut down an entier streach of local freeway, so the best we can do is do a rolling road block of one lane to give the procession access to the freeway.
There are streets toward the outskirts of the city where I've indulged myself and run wide open flying up past the procession, and yes, it is fun.
I would guestimate my average speed when passing to be in the 60-70 mph range on average though.
I've been down once pretty bad when a vehicle attempted to cut a U-turn through the procession, she was at a blind spot for me and I never saw her car until it was right in front of me. I never even had time to grab the brakes.
My entier life story flashed before my eyes, and I discovered I really didn't like the ending.
It put me out of work for several months, but once I'd healed I went right back to it. How could I not go back to a job where I not only get paid to ride a motorcycle, but to do so while exeeding the posted speed limit, running through red lights and riding the wrong way up streets?

Red John

Sgt. Friday
05-08-2005, 05:30 PM
In my humbled opinion escorts should not invlove any law enforcement agency at all, the liability to massive. Numerous times there have been fatal accidents invloving law enforcement provided escorts. GET OUT THE CHECK BOOKS!!!! Ten thousand questions will be asked as to why the procession lacked the necesary number of Officers to provide proper safety for the procession. One patrol car leading the front of the procession doesn't cut the grade as to providing the "NECESSARY" safety. So do the law enforcement agencies provide ten Officers maybe even twenty Officers in the largers cities, or in smaller towns maybe their entire force? What about the "proactive crime prevention" while these processions take anywhere from 20 minutes to over one hours in many cases with the Officers waiting at their posts for the delayed processions? Why are the citizens flipping the bill for services they don't benefit from, thru tax payers maonies, and when it becomes their family funeral procession, will there be Officers available to excort their loved one? It's almost a no win delemia for the law enforcement agencies.

Why not have the funeral homes start the services earlier and at the end of the service provide detailed maps to the location of enterment and provide a 30 minute time period before departing to the cementary theirselve with the deceased. This will allow everyone enough lead time to get safetly to the cementary, the elderly to walk to the grave site and everyone to safetly arrive, thus leading to a quicker more organized interment. A much less chance of an accident enroute to the cementary, no tax payer monies being used (or a lessor amount being used in some cases), the funeral homes can continue and meet their schedules on time, ect, ect...

But again this is only my humbled opinion and i'm quite sure many will find fault, but at least i'm willing to engage and offer a solution with the details to be worked on, but al least it's a start. :rolleyes: