During a recent funeral procession, many vehicles were seen turning into or attempting to bypass the line of funeral home vehicles, even with the police escort.
Those drivers may be unaware of a Virginia Commonwealth law 46.2-828 stating: No vehicle that is not properly part of a funeral procession shall join, pass through, or interfere with the passage of any funeral procession under escort as provided in this section.
Brian Horne of Horne Funeral Home in Christiansburg said that Montgomery County is very fortunate to have local law enforcement agencies so willing to help control traffic for funeral processions.
“The Christiansburg Police Department is extremely helpful with escorts,” Horne said.
If drivers encounter a procession with the hearse, family limousines, and mourners, drivers should be polite, pull over safely to the shoulder and wait for the procession to pass before proceeding.
“It is best to move to the right and wait,” Horne said.
A driver who is seen unlawfully impeding or disrupting a funeral procession can be ticketed by law enforcement. Any person convicted of this violation can be found guilty of a traffic infraction with a penalty fine up to $500 and be assessed four driver demerit points.
“I have seen vehicles being ticketed,” said Ross Blount, manager of McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg.
He agreed that cooperation between the law enforcement of Christiansburg, Montgomery and Blacksburg for funeral escorts are wonderful.
Blount requests drivers not in the funeral procession to grant his vehicles and mourners the right a way, per the law.
“Please pull over or turn off the road safely and wait the five minutes,” Blount said.
In this recent funeral procession in the right lane, the vehicles traveling to the cemetery were inconsistent with headlights burning and/or hazard lights flashing. For any mourner driving from a funeral home or church to a cemetery, the state law also has instructions: Vehicles traveling as part of any funeral procession, whether escorted or unescorted, may display high beam headlights and flash all four turn signals or hazard lights to identify themselves as part of the procession.
Some funeral homes, like McCoy, offer funeral flags for display on a vehicle in the procession. The Horne Funeral Home has parking attendants who help drivers understand the importance of following the laws instructions to be safe and consistent.
For example, more vehicles have daytime running lights.
“It is important that those vehicles in the funeral procession should have their hazard lights flashing,” Horne said.
Furthermore, a vehicle in a funeral procession should be driven slowly and in close safe proximity with other vehicles.
“I make sure the lead funeral home vehicle is driven very slowly, five to fifteen miles per hour,” Blount said.
Drivers should stay in line, and obey the police escort even if the procession is going through a red light at an intersection.
Horne explained funeral homes are required by another Virginia law to use purple warning lights on their vehicles in a funeral processions. These purple flashing lights, like emergency vehicles, are meant to draw attention and should be observed by drivers within and outside the funeral procession.