What to do when encountering a Funeral Procession

Posted on September 07, 2015

It is likely that you have driven by or had a funeral procession pass you on the road.  It often can seem frustrating and inconvenient to wait for a long line of slow moving cars.  However, keep in mind that the family following their loved one to their final resting place is grieving and the deceased deserves respect from all of us in the community.

Funeral procession etiquette isn’t something one usually learns in driver’s ed, but nonetheless, it is important to know the rights of the procession.  Identifying the procession, even if you didn’t see the hearse, should be easy, as Iowa Code 321.324A states, any motor vehicle accompanying the hearse should proceed “with lighted headlamps in close formation.”

Drivers should treat the procession as they would an emergency vehicle: stop and allow the procession to pass.  Do NOT pass the vehicles, as pulling over is a sign of respect for the deceased and the family will surely appreciate the gesture.  As it is stated in the law under the previously stated code: “Upon the immediate approach of a funeral procession, the driver of every other vehicle, except an authorized emergency vehicle, shall yield the right-of-way.”


NOTE: If you are a member of the procession, if you stay with the procession and have your emergency lights blinking and headlights on, you will not be pulled over for traffic violations (unless you are driving recklessly); however, you still need to give the right of way to all emergency vehicles.

Yielding the right of way is simple while on a two lane street, but what happens if you are on the interstate or a four or more lane thoroughfare?  Again, same rules apply as an emergency vehicle: allow the procession to pass you, and while you can keep driving on a highway, you should stay behind the procession in the other lane.  Do not put yourself or others at risk by stopping if there is not an available place to wait, but make sure to slow down.  All of these rules apply even if there is no police escort with the procession.

Pedestrians are also encouraged to show respect to the deceased by stopping while the procession passes.  Gentleman, if you are wearing a hat, we encourage you to remove it during that time.  It is a small nod of respect, but one the family will surely notice and appreciate.

Funeral processions can be long and always seem to happen at an inopportune time.  However, please consider the family of the deceased, as they are saying goodbye to their loved one.  


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