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Funeral escorts.

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  • Funeral escorts.

    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

  • #2
    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.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Bodie
      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.

      Comment


      • #4
        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!
        That's right, bring me my royal coffee!

        Comment


        • #5
          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.

          Comment


          • #6
            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.
            If you ever have sprained ankle, give me a call.

            Comment


            • #7
              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

              Comment


              • #8
                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.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by FireEMSPolice
                  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.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    it is long past time that the archaiac ritual of the funeral procession is itself laid to rest.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Tired Old Practice Needs to be Buried

                      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.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Max Fischer
                        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.
                        Last edited by Red John; 05-06-2005, 08:21 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Point Taken

                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "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.


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

                            We are the thin blue line
                            between you
                            and all the money in the world.

                            And no you can't have any.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Screw them all but nine.

                              Six for pall bearers.

                              Two for road guards.

                              And one to count cadence.
                              Kelly

                              We are the thin blue line
                              between you
                              and all the money in the world.

                              And no you can't have any.

                              Comment

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