Everyone knows to pull their car to the side of the road to let an ambulance, police car, or firetruck pass. Most people these days know that it’s important to pull over to make a phone call. Safety first and all! And, of course, drivers should always pull over for a funeral procession.
Not only is it polite to let a grieving family make their way from the funeral home to the burial site, but in many states, it’s the law.
While the specific rules vary state by state, in most states, funeral processions always have the right of way in traffic, save for emergency vehicles. In fact, in many states, police officers can ticket drivers who cut through a funeral procession. A Jimmy John's sandwich shop employee in Michigan learned that lesson the hard way when he cut into a funeral procession—twice—while making deliveries. Not only did he receive a ticket for failing to yield to a funeral procession, but he ended up losing his job, too.
Funeral processions can be confusing for drivers who encounter them on the road. After all, it’s unusual to run into a line of cars streaming through an intersection disregarding changing lights and stop signs. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the rules surrounding funeral processions vary dramatically from state to state and city to city. For instance, while Alabama has no rules governing funeral processions at all, the city of Birmingham has made it illegal to cut through a procession. In Georgia, the lead vehicle of a funeral procession must be marked with a flag or other sign and each vehicle in the procession must have its headlights on. In Kentucky, funeral processions have the right-of-way at all intersections, so processions can run red lights and drive through stop signs. In Louisiana, only processions led by a police escort can pass through intersections that would otherwise require them to stop.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to resolve any confusion about funeral processions regardless of what state you’re in and it all boils down to good manners. When you see a line of cars outfitted with funeral flags or following a hearse, simply pull over. Not only is it safer for everyone on the road, but it’s the polite thing to do and an easy way to show respect for a grieving family.