Always respect funeral processions

March 24, 2014

Although increasing numbers of people in this country are opting for cremation when they reach the end of their lives, either because of cost, environmental concerns or a preference to have their ashes spread at a site of special significance to them, burial at a cemetery remains the preferred option for about half of those who exit this existence.

That means funeral processions will continue to travel through towns and cities for the foreseeable future, carrying the departed to their final resting place with friends and family accompanying them. Drivers are supposed to yield to a funeral procession, but as a story in Monday’s Observer-Reporter noted, all too many of us are either unaware of proper etiquette when it comes to funeral processions, or prefer to disregard the manners demanded for the occasion.

According to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, drivers in a funeral procession are required to display flags and turn on their headlights and emergency flashers. While they must yield to emergency vehicles, as all other drivers must, they can go through a red light or stop sign if the lead vehicle in the procession has done so. As the story by Kathie Warco pointed out, funeral directors have lately gotten into the habit of urging drivers to stick as close together as possible, allowing for safety, so no other vehicles can cut into the procession.

We have received letters from readers expressing frustration at rude drivers breaching funeral processions and doing nothing to rectify their mistake, and our story offered up tales of accidents and other types of discourtesy shown to funeral processions and mourners. Sure, we’re all busy, we’re all in a hurry, distractions have increased and all too often our roads are not built to handle the volume of traffic that they do. But that’s no excuse for boorish behavior.

Residents of Washington may well recall the lengthy procession that accompanied the body of 27-year-old firefighter Jeremy LaBella to Washington Cemetery in 2007, or, in 2011, the massive number of vehicles that snaked through the city in the final rites for John David Dryer, an East Washington police officer killed in the line of duty. They were accorded the deepest respect and gratitude. And though most don’t die as young or in circumstances as tragic, and don’t have funeral processions that stretch for miles, everyone deserves the same level of respect.



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