Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Proceed with Caution

February 13, 2014 / by davidwalton

procession2The other day I witnessed a funeral procession. To show my respect, I waited at the traffic light until the last vehicle bearing a purple funeral flag had passed.

During my wait I was taken aback by the rude behavior of other drivers. The driver behind me impatiently blew her horn when the light turned green. She obviously didn’t see the procession or just didn’t care. The only thing on her mind was that I move out of the way. Another driver tried to be clever and pass my car and the others sitting idle behind me only to come to a screeching halt when he saw the procession.

What could be so important that would prevent these folks from showing respect for the dearly departed?

Later that night, I did some research on funeral processions. I learned that in most states there are laws pertaining to processions, which require motorists to yield. The rules also apply to the procession itself, and include things like observing traffic lights and requiring participants in the procession to drive with their headlights on. Although some processions have police escorts, they are not required.

I found several news stories from across the country about funeral processions causing accidents.

According to AAA, more than half of the six people killed in 2011 were police officers escorting processions. It would seem the public is losing patience with this long-standing tradition.

Earlier this month, the San Jose Mercury News got an earful from readers unhappy with recent traffic disruptions for the funeral of a slain Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer.

San Jose resident Charles Lindsey demanded a valid explanation from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, not “Suck it up, commuters – at least you’re still alive.” Another unhappy commuter thought MTC’s remarks were very condescending. “A cop died, so the hell with the public. We’ll inconvenience thousands of freeway users so that a funeral procession can be held.”

Police officers defended the disruptions, calling readers’ comments “insensitive” and suggesting they “get over themselves and show some respect.”

Although processions are meant to show respect for the dearly departed and their grieving family and friends, I personally think they’re an accident waiting to happen. Many people just don’t give the respect to funeral processions they once did and cut in-between cars in the procession.

What do you think? Should mourners simply meet at the burial site instead?

Until next time…

4 thoughts on “Proceed with Caution

  1. Sarah Ashley says:

    I just found your site through GeneaBloggers and I wanted to stop by and welcome you to our little community of writers. I wish you the best of luck with your site and with your research!

  2. ~ Tonya ~ says:

    I was once a part of a funeral procession for a teenage friend who died unexpectedly in the mid-90’s. The procession wove through back country roads for miles. At one point we passed an older gentlemen who was spending his day mowing his front yard. I watched him as he sat on his turned off lawn mower, he took off his hat and put his hand over his heart as the procession passed. It was really a powerful thing to witness. From that point on I have always showed respect to all funeral processions. It shouldn’t matter the why of the death. There is a level of respect all should have when a life has passed and is being prepared for their final resting place. If we lose that respect because we are further away from the time when this was always practiced then what else are we shaving away when it comes to issuing respect? We are saying our daily life is more important than a human life that was here and lived and is now being ushered onto a greater journey. If nothing else it should remind us why we are here and we need to sometimes slow down and take stock of our life and current path of gaining knowledge and life lessons.

  3. RayJay says:

    Great observations on the part of the writer which I too have witnessed. Some people have no patience. My personal confusion comes in, much like when a school bus stops, when the procession is on the opposite side of the road on a four-lane highway. I have witnessed people stop in all lanes and it is an accident waiting to happen.

  4. Dawn says:

    I was in a funeral procession recently for my great aunt. At the beginning of the procession there was the funeral director in a separate car from the hearse and in the rear was another funeral director following me as I was the last car. My aunt ahead of me took off slowly from a stop and left a gap in the procession. A car decided to pull into the gap in front of me and was riding in the procession. The funeral director behind me suddenly changed lanes and drove up beside the driver. I saw him motioning for him to get out of line. The driver complied. I believe he was just oblivious to the fact it was a funeral. The actions of the funeral director was appreciated but surprised me just the same.

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