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Project Drive Safer: Here's what to do when you come across a funeral procession while driving

Once the lead vehicle passes through an intersection, others in the procession can follow
funeral
Posted at 5:27 AM, Nov 30, 2022

BAY VIEW, Wis. — Every Wednesday as part of our Project Drive Safer Campaign, we bring you a traffic safety tip of the week to help educate drivers on the rules of the roadway. This week we are talking about funeral processions. This is a topic that was sent to us by a viewer who said she experienced reckless driving while in a funeral procession.

Jeff Kleczka has been a part of thousands of funerals during his career. As the Funeral Director and Vice President of Prasser Kleczka Funeral Home, he has also participated in countless funeral processions. He said over the years, from time to time, he has seen reckless driving while traveling to a burial site.

"On occasion, I've seen people trying to interrupt the funeral procession. Sometimes it’s out of pure ignorance, sometimes it’s out of carelessness and people not being patient and not being respectful," said Jeff.

So first, how can you spot a vehicle in a funeral procession? Well, it all starts with the lead vehicle.

"The lead car driving a funeral procession has an amber light, the following cars in the funeral procession are identified with a flag," said Jeff.

That lead vehicle must obey traffic, signals, and laws. Once the lead vehicle passes through an intersection, others in the procession can follow.

"The following cars in a funeral procession should be safely following the car in front of them, but they can proceed through stop lights, they can proceed through stop signs, so long as the lead car has gone before them," said Jeff.

Other drivers, not in the procession, should give the procession the right of way. Jeff says cutting into a funeral procession is not only illegal, but it can also be upsetting to grieving families.

"When people cut into the funeral procession or cause a near accident in a funeral procession, obviously and very understandably, they take that personally as a sign of disrespect to the person that has passed away," said Jeff.

346.20  Right-of-way of funeral processions and military convoys.

(1)  Except as provided in sub. (4), the operator of a vehicle not in a funeral procession or military convoy shall yield the right-of-way at an intersection to vehicles in a funeral procession or military convoy when vehicles comprising such procession have their headlights lighted.

(2) The operator of a vehicle not in a funeral procession shall not drive the vehicle between the vehicles of the funeral procession, except when authorized to do so by a traffic officer or when such vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle giving audible signal by siren.

(3) Operators of vehicles not a part of a funeral procession or military convoy shall not form a procession or convoy and have their headlights lighted for the purpose of securing the right-of-way granted by this section to funeral processions or military convoys.

(4) 

(a) Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession or military convoy shall yield the right-of-way in accordance with s. 346.19 upon the approach of an authorized emergency vehicle giving audible signal by siren.

(b) Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession or military convoy shall yield the right-of-way when directed to do so by a traffic officer.

(c) The operator of the leading vehicle in a funeral procession or military convoy shall comply with stop signs and traffic control signals, but when the leading vehicle has proceeded across an intersection in accordance with such signal or after stopping as required by the stop sign, all vehicles in such procession may proceed without stopping, regardless of the sign or signal.

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