Do you know proper funeral procession etiquette?
Of course, you want to show respect to the deceased and their family by attending the funeral procession after the service. Or maybe you are looking for answers on what to do if you witness one while driving. Whether you are planning to follow or happen to be a bystander, there are fundamental principles you need to know.
But first, what is a procession?
What is a funeral procession?
Traditionally, a funeral procession often takes place after a funeral, celebration of life or memorial service. The deceased is transported from a funeral home or place of worship to the burial or cremation site. Friends and family follow closely behind, and the funeral directors will typically lead.
This beautiful tradition gives loved ones the opportunity to give one final goodbye before burial or cremation. The procession dates back all the way to ancient civilizations.
Upon arrival to the funeral, the directors may place a flag or sticker on your car. This symbolizes that you are participating in the procession following the service. Typically, these will display “funeral” on them and will be placed on the left-hand side of your vehicle. They may also come in different colors but are there to show other drivers that you are a part of the procession and have the right-of-way.
The last vehicle in the fleet will have two flags and possibly their hazard lights, symbolizing the end of the procession line. Now that we have discussed how the procession works, let’s talk about proper funeral procession etiquette.
Funeral procession etiquette for members of the procession
If you are participating in the procession as a funeral attendee, this process may seem puzzling. You may be asking yourself some of these questions: When do I arrive? Should I turn my hazards on? Do I stop at red lights or stop signs? What speed should I be going?
These are all valid questions.
When should I arrive?
The cars are arranged in the order they arrive. Therefore, the earlier you arrive, the closer you will be to the front of the line. However, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before the service to ensure this process goes smoothly.
The directors will give you a signal when it is your time to follow suit. Make sure you steer your vehicle close to the one before you but still give them enough room to move for emergency purposes.
What is an appropriate speed to drive?
Processions are done at a relatively slow speed as a sign of respect and a time of reflection for loved ones. It gives family members time to process the service and think about the wonderful memories they hold of their departed.
The slow speed also enables the procession to stay together, as well as provides safety for every vehicle participating. Drivers should typically stay at a steady speed between 20-30 mph on backroads or 50 mph on highways. The best way to ensure you are driving at an appropriate speed is to go with the flow of the procession traffic.
Should I turn my hazards on?
It is not necessary to turn your hazards on if you are not leading or the caboose of the funeral procession. However, you need to stay very close to the car in front while still maintaining a safe stopping distance.
In the state of California, a funeral procession must be directed by a uniformed peace officer, typically in motorcycle vehicles. Peace officers line intersections to direct traffic and help all vehicles in the procession safely pass-through traffic.
Each Funeral Home should be required to have enough available trained escorts to provide the procession with continuity and safety. At Coastal Funeral Center, there is one escort for every ten cars.
As stated before, directors may also attach two funeral flags on your vehicle as another way of signaling that traffic may resume after you.
Funeral processions and traffic laws
When attending a funeral procession, you are expected to follow and abide by procession protocols such as traffic laws and rules. However, these regulations tend to differ from state to state. Make sure to check your state’s traffic laws regarding funeral processions. Vehicles involved in the funeral procession must still yield and make way for any approaching emergency vehicles. These may include ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and rescue vehicles.
- In some states, the express statutory provision directs pedestrians and motorists to give the right of way to a vehicle participant in a funeral procession.
- You must still follow all traffic laws such as stopping at stop signs and red lights. However, there may be dedicated officers helping the procession move through these intersections.
- Treat others with respect. Refrain from listening to loud music, using your cell phone, or honking your horn.
Funeral procession etiquette for non-attendees
If you encounter a memorial procession when driving, there is a certain etiquette you should also follow.
1. Be respectful
Remember, drivers in a funeral procession are mourning the loss of a loved one, so you should be respectful of their feelings. We understand the interruption of traffic and the slow nature of a procession can take a while to get through. However, put yourself in the position of the mourners and be patient. Don’t shout, honk your horn, or play loud music with the windows down near a funeral procession.
2. Don’t disrupt the order of a procession
It is essential for vehicles in the funeral procession to stay together, so make sure to allow all vehicles to pass. Give way to the procession, even if you have a green light, and wait until the final car has passed before continuing to drive to your destination. Look for the last car in the procession with two flags on its hood and hazard lights on.
3. Don’t pass
Do not pass a funeral procession, especially on local roads with one lane. It is not only extremely dangerous but very disrespectful to mourners.
However, you may pass a memorial procession on the highway if there are two or more lanes, on the left side.
Planning a funeral procession for your deceased loved one
The funeral procession is just one part of planning a funeral. Planning can be overwhelming. However, your funeral director can help and support you, as they have lots of experience planning and leading funeral processions.
Coastal Funeral Center can assist you in planning from calling hours to the procession and everything in between. If you have any other questions about funeral planning, our advisors are here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at (310) 326-6343.
About Coastal Funeral Center
At Coastal Funeral Center, we are committed to being dedicated guardians of family and community, while holding on to the legacy we established as a family-owned funeral home. Originally A.M Gamby Funeral Home, Coastal Funeral Center joined Green Hills Memorial Park in 2018 to better serve the community of the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula. During this transition, we expanded our services as an all-inclusive facility and built on the successes of Green Hills Memorial Park. We’re proud of our legacy of personal service and our deep roots in the community, which we’ve been part of for more than 80 years. We provide customized funeral service options that meet your financial needs and honor your loved one like the beautiful individual they were. To learn more, visit https://coastalfuneralcenter.com/about/.