Today’s Zits cartoon provides an opportunity to talk about funeral procession etiquette. Jeremy and his pals, in his dilapidated VW minivan, have inadvertently cut into a funeral procession, right behind the hearse.
Local police don’t escort funeral processions much anymore, unless the deceased was one of their own, a fire fighter, or military personnel killed in battle. Most funeral procession escorts are now done by private motor escort services hired by the funeral home. They may look like police, with lights on their cars or motorcycles, and may even be moonlighting officers.
When funeral planning, the funeral director will probably ask if you want a motor escort to facilitate the procession from wherever the funeral is held to the cemetery. This assumes that the funeral is not being held graveside, of course.
My advice: whatever it costs, get the motor escort. They help move the mourners safely on the journey to the cemetery, eliminating one more thing to worry about. They can stop traffic if need be and they stand guard at busy intersections to make sure the entire procession can keep rolling through even if the light changes to red.
For my father-in-law’s funeral, two motorcycle escorts did a tag team routine as the motorcade moved from the synagogue to the cemetery, about a six-mile trip across town. One officer pulled into an intersection, got off his motorcycle, and directed traffic to stop until the full procession had moved through. The second officer brought up the rear, then zoomed to the front of the procession to handle traffic at the next intersection. While the motorcade did have to come to a stop at a few intersections, the escort kept it moving smoothly and safely the majority of the trip.
The cost to hire motorcycle escorts in Albuquerque was about $200 each in 2009, and the cost in 2010 has gone up to $210 per escort. Costs for a motor escort will vary by market. Whenever the next energy crisis hits and the price of gasoline shoots up into the stratosphere, you can bet the cost of a motor escort will go up as well.
If you are driving in a funeral procession, there are a few basic rules to follow. Allow the immediate family to be the first in line behind the hearse. They may be in a limousine or their own vehicles. Turn your headlights on to indicate you are part of the motorcade. Funeral attendants (the staff of the funeral home) may provide a “funeral” sign to put on your dashboard or a magnetic sign to attach to the vehicle to indicate you are part of a procession.
Remember to keep up with the procession, which will be moving relatively slowly – 30 to 40 miles per hour. Even when traveling on an interstate highway, a procession will go no faster than 55 mph. Stay close to the vehicle ahead to avoid people cutting into the procession (like our friend Jeremy in the Zits cartoon).