We’ve all been on the road and seen a funeral procession and watched other drivers respond. Some pull over, some continue down the road and some stop their cars and get out. You might think the right thing to do depends on where you are and what you’re doing, but it doesn’t.
Florida Law on Funeral Processions
In the Sunshine State, there’s a statute that deals with funeral processions – also called corteges – and right of way. It’s 316.1974, and defines both the parts of a funeral procession and what you should do if you should encounter one.
A funeral procession, according to law, means two or more vehicles accompanying the body of a deceased person traveling during daylight hours to the church, chapel or other location where the funeral service will be held.
The funeral procession includes a lead vehicle, usually a law enforcement vehicle or a funeral escort. Escort and lead vehicles must have at least one lighted circulating light that is amber or purple and that’s visible from at least 500 feet in front of the vehicle. These lights may only be used when there’s a funeral procession. Law enforcement vehicles may use their red, blue or amber flashing lights.
Who Else is in the Funeral Procession?
In addition to the lead car, a funeral procession usually includes the hearse, immediate family, other family, then other funeral attendees. In Florida, according to statute, cars driving in a funeral procession must have headlights and tail lights on and may also use flashing hazard lights to signify that they are part of the procession and not general traffic.
The procession has the right of way in traffic at all times regardless of any traffic control device or right-of-way provisions. When the lead vehicle safely and lawfully enters an intersection, the rest of the cars may follow regardless of any lights or other right-of-way provisions. The only exceptions to a funeral procession’s right of way is for an oncoming emergency vehicle or if directed to yield by a police officer. So you usually have right of way in a funeral procession, but please proceed carefully. Not everyone knows or obeys the rules.
And yes, you can be ticketed for violating the state statute by failing to yield the right of way or ignoring any other parts of the law.
What Should Other Drivers Do?
Yield the right of way. Period. It’s good etiquette to also pull over and wait for the funeral procession to pass as a sign of respect for the deceased and the mourning friends and family. Think if it were your family member and how you would want to be treated by others.
You may need to move to a safe place – don’t just stop in the middle of the thoroughfare – or slow down if there’s not a safe place to pull over. Take cues from what drivers in front of you are doing. At intersections, even if you have the right of way, the law says you must yield to the funeral procession. Refrain from revving your engine, honking or playing loud music as the funeral procession makes its way through.
On the highway, there’s a good chance a cortege might not be able to hit highway speeds. Pass it if you absolutely have to, but do not cut into the funeral procession to make an exit or turn.
If you’re a pedestrian, etiquette calls for you to stop walking and, if you’re wearing a hat, to remove it respectfully. Bowing your head is also respectful, but not necessary.
Learn more about funeral etiquette and practices on the Bevis Funeral Home blog or, if you have questions or need more resources, call a member of our experienced team at 850-385-2193.