Published: November 15, 2019 by Rick Smith - Funeral Director
Imagine for a moment that you are a funeral director driving a hearse carrying a loved one, and leading all of his or her family & friends in a vehicle processional to the cemetery. You are having to guide slowly, carefully and cautiously through busy avenues and congested intersections.
Then imagine hasty drivers racing through the intersection in an effort to beat the procession and get ahead of the funeral convoy; or, quickly cutting through a gap in the procession to avoid any delay in making their turn; or, speeding down the other lane alongside the procession to get ahead of the line. In spite of the role of an escort to slow and stop traffic, some drivers ignore the effort and bully through anyway. How can you protect the lives & property of those behind you with such vulnerabilities on the way?
This is the challenge we face each time we leave the chapel, church or other funeral service location for our processional to the cemetery. Following are three simple guidelines that drivers can remember when encountering a funeral procession on the roadway:
Know the Law – According to Arkansas Code 27-49-113, funeral processionals have the legal right-of-way from the originating point of the processional through to the cemetery. All motorists are to observe this law and yield to the funeral convoy without exception except for certain emergency vehicles.
Know the Logistics – Our processionals are usually led by an escort service vehicle with clearly identifiable marks and flashing lights. In addition, our hearse has flashing lights mounted between the headlamps and funeral flags flanking the hood. We instruct each motorist in the procession to set their headlamps to “bright” and turn on their emergency flashers. This helps drivers easily spot the convoy and know when the final vehicle has followed through.
Know the Loyalties – Aside from laws and logistics, there is simple loyalties with regard to respect & dignity. Practices such as slowing, or coming to a complete stop and pulling over are traditional ways culture has paid respect to funeral processions as they have made their way to on-coming traffic. Of course, not all roadways are safe to this kind of response, such as interstates and multi-lane thoroughfares. A general rule of thumb for all motorists will be to simply show the same respect to an approaching funeral procession that you would expect motorists to give if the hearse carried your closest loved one and was leading your family members to the cemetery.
We are keenly sensitive to the safety and welfare of our staff and the families we serve. We are always grateful for the care and respect fellow motorists extend to our processionals as we assist individuals in making that final trip to lay their loved ones to rest. We hope these simple but important guidelines will help the public in supporting these efforts.