The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 16, 2013

Courtesy governs state's funeral processions

— FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Jim Mullins said when he was a child, he knew when a funeral procession was passing by because of the flags attached to the cars.

"They don't do that anymore," Mullins said. "There's no way to identify a funeral procession."

AAA recently released a report detailing a growing disregard for funeral processions, especially in metropolitan areas. The report revealed at least two people were killed and 23 injured nationwide in funeral procession crashes in 2011.

Mullins was recently driving in a funeral procession that lost its police escort after it left the Florence city limits and entered Muscle Shoals.

The procession was broken up because there was no police car to allow it to continue through traffic signals. As a result, other cars cut in and out of the procession.

While he initially considered the drivers' actions disrespectful, Mullins said he later decided that much of what happened was because of drivers not recognizing the line of cars as a funeral procession.

"The only thing to indicate it was a funeral procession was a lot of us had our emergency flashers on," Mullins said.

Mullins, who moved to Sheffield from Illinois about three years ago, said the courtesy of stopping for funeral processions is prevalent in smaller communities where he has lived.

Most states require vehicles in a funeral possessions to have their headlights on throughout the trip, but some also require cars turn on their signal flashers, or to be marked with flags or placards in their windshields.

If it's not a law enforcement vehicle, the lead vehicle in a funeral procession in Florida must have a flashing amber light.

In Massachusetts, laws governing funeral processions don't include processions with 10 cars or fewer. In New Jersey, if a funeral procession takes longer than five minutes to clear an intersection, it must be stopped for at least five minutes to allow other traffic to pass.

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