Have you ever found yourself driving down the road and suddenly you see a slow-moving line of cars traveling toward you, flashers on and flags on the top? Most likely, this is a funeral procession of family and friends respectfully escorting their loved one to their final resting place. In this blog, we will discuss the history of the funeral procession and the etiquette to follow when you encounter one on the road.
Funeral Processions Throughout History
The funeral procession, or motorcade, like embalming dates to the Ancient Egyptians. The mummy would be pulled on a sledge, by men or oxen, leading the procession followed by family, servants, and professional mourners. The Greeks procession involved the deceased being placed on a bier and carried by family members. For the Romans, the type of procession depended on status. Common people had quiet affairs, while those with wealth held extensive, elaborate parades.
Processions evolved with the times and the culture, eventually involving horse drawn carriages and today, cars. The standard procession includes a funeral home lead vehicle, the hearse, a limousine carrying immediate family and friends and extended family following in their own vehicles.
Encountering a Funeral Procession
As a driver, you may wonder what rules you must follow when encountering a funeral procession. Legally, funeral processions must adhere to the written rules of the road. However, here are a few suggestions to follow if you see a funeral procession.
- Give Way: If it is possible and safe to do so, pull over and let the funeral procession pass, this simple act shows great respect.
- Yield: Once you see the lead vehicle enter traffic, such as at an intersection or round-about, the entire procession will follow. Even when traffic lights change, allow the full procession through before taking way.
- Don’t Cut In: It would be considered disrespectful to cut into the funeral procession or tag on the end. Give the procession plenty of room and if you accidentally do cut in, pull off as soon as possible and allow the procession to continue.
- Don’t Honk: Remember that those in the funeral procession are grieving and the procession is their final act before they lay their loved one to rest. Be respectful, and don’t honk.
There are no set rules to funeral processions and likely, if you’re not involved in the procession, your actions will go unnoticed. But the simple act of pulling over shows respect to not only the deceased, but their family and friends who are accompanying them to their final resting place. In her 2016 blog post, Stopping Traffic, Reverend Cindy Maddox wrote the words so perfectly:
“You see, a funeral procession is not about getting to the cemetery at the same time. A funeral procession is a chain of connection, a visible sign of the invisible bond of grief. To the grieving, it is inconceivable that the world keeps going when their world stopped. They cannot understand how the rest of the world keeps spinning, not aware that it has lost something precious, when their world will never be the same. They will go through the coming weeks and months and maybe years with a hole in their gut that will be virtually invisible to everyone who passes. But for this day, this moment, they are seen. And if their grief doesn’t stop the world, at least it should stop traffic.”