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Funeral driving 101

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-07-31


Attending a funeral is tough. Driving in a funeral procession can be even tougher.

Meet Meg. She’s an energetic mother of two who works part-time. She’s not a real person. Last week, Meg was running errands after working out at the gym. While waiting to exit the pharmacy’s parking lot, Meg watched a funeral procession pass. Meg pulled out behind the line of cars in the procession. Meg noticed headlights on several cars behind her.

As she approached an intersection, Meg saw a police officer standing near his police motorcycle waiving cars through the intersection. The traffic light turned red and the officer continued motioning cars forward.

Realizing she unknowingly joined a funeral procession, Meg had two choices: stop her vehicle at the red light and disobey the hand signals of the police officer or continue to follow the procession through the red light? Meg chose the latter. The officer made eye contact with her. She watched the officer stare at the back of her car as she passed. Meg’s heart started pounding faster.

Meg looked for a way to separate from the funeral procession. She saw a private driveway, put on her turn signal, slowed down and prepared to turn. Instead of passing, the cars in the funeral procession behind her appeared ready to turn too. Meg abandoned the turn and sped forward to catch up to the cars ahead. Shortly thereafter, traffic slowed as the procession turned into the cemetery. Meg didn’t turn. She drove straight.

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Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you


A moment later, Meg noticed a police motorcycle with lights on behind her. She pulled to the side of the road. The officer approached her car and asked her why she was traveling within a funeral procession. Meg explained that she did so accidentally. The officer ticketed Meg for interfering with a funeral procession, a Class C infraction.

Indiana law provides that a vehicle with lighted headlights in a funeral procession has the right-of-way at an intersection if the procession is headed by a lead or funeral escort vehicle displaying alternately flashing lights or by an emergency vehicle. A person driving in a funeral procession (1) must exercise due caution; (2) must follow the car ahead as closely as is practical and safe; (3) must illuminate headlights and taillights; and (4) may display flashing amber lights (optional). Also, the vehicle immediately following the lead vehicle and the last vehicle in the procession have the option of activating the hazard warning lights.

It is legal to pass a funeral procession, but only if done so safely and on the procession’s left side on a multiple lane highway. As Meg learned, it is unlawful to interfere with a procession or to join a procession (when you are not part of the funeral) and activate headlights simply to obtain a right-of-way.

Meg also learned that in most circumstances Indiana drivers are not required to slow down, stop or pull over for a funeral procession. Meg still plans to pull over and pay her respects when she sees a funeral procession.

Next time, she will make sure all of the cars in a procession pass.

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