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What Are the Rules of a Funeral Procession?

Published: January 31, 2022

You’re driving down the street and see a funeral procession heading your way—you feel a pang of anxiety, because while you want to be respectful, you really don’t know what you’re supposed to do. Do you come to a complete stop? Slow down? Switch lanes? Perhaps just do whatever it is that others around you are doing?

You’re not alone in your uncertainty. Many others are confused about the ins and outs of the funeral procession. We’d like to offer some suggestions, but before we do, here’s a brief explanation on what a funeral procession is:

What’s a Funeral Procession?

A funeral procession is a convoy of family, relatives, and friends following the hearse as it carries the deceased from the funeral service location to the final place of rest.

The arrangement of the funeral procession is typically this: the lead car (sometimes the hearse), the hearse carrying the deceased, immediate family, other family, and everyone else attending the funeral.

The lead car is often marked in some way—often a flashing light or a flag, maybe both. All others in the procession typically have their emergency flashers or headlights on. The final car is often marked with two flags.                                                                 

What to Do When You Encounter a Funeral Procession

Pull Over When Possible

When you encounter a funeral procession, you should handle it just as you would if an emergency vehicle is heading your way—slow down and pull over, if possible.

Though there are no laws in New York requiring people to pull over for a procession, most would agree that it’s an important funeral custom showing respect for the deceased and the family.

You may be wondering whether you’re supposed to pull over if the funeral procession is traveling in the opposite direction of you. The answer is “yes,” but only if you can do it safely.

Of course sometimes it’s just not safe to pull over, such as when the traffic is heavy, for example, or if there is no shoulder. Just use your best judgement and pull over only when you can do so safely without endangering yourself or other drivers around you.

Yield to the Procession

Just as you are to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles at intersections, you should also yield to a funeral procession as it passes through an intersection. The same rule applies to a stop sign.

On the Highway

Another question you might have is whether it’s ever okay to pass a funeral procession on the highway. The answer is this: sometimes. It’s okay only when there are two or more lanes going in the same direction AND you do not attempt to pass the procession on its right side, unless the procession is in the far left lane.

Here’s the bottom line: Even on the highway, the most respectful thing to do is pull over if you can safely do so.

Do Not Cut in, Cut Off, Or Tag Along

This may seem obvious to you, but there are people that simply don’t know this. There are also those who know it’s not the nicest thing to do, yet can’t be bothered to add a few extra minutes to their trip. Thankfully most of us feel it’s important to take the time to show our respect to the grieving family.

When On Foot

Everything mentioned so far has been about encountering a funeral procession while in a vehicle, but what if you should encounter one while on foot? The right thing to do would be to stop walking or jogging until the last car passes by—and if you’re wearing a hat, you should remove it.

Why Funeral Processions Matter

The funeral procession is an important right of passage. For thousands of centuries, going back as far in time as ancient Egypt, families have found comfort in accompanying loved ones to their final place of rest.

The next time you pull over to let a funeral procession pass by, consider how you’re bearing witness to an age-old tradition that, still today, offers solace to a grieving family and shows respect and appreciation for the life lived.

We appreciate you taking the time to read our blog! If you ever have any questions, please call us, Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home, at 800-737-0017.

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