The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 16, 2013

Courtesy governs state's funeral processions

(Continued)

Alabama State Trooper Curtis Summerville, a public information officer for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said there are no state laws regarding funeral processions. And though it is a common practice, state law does not require motorists to pull over or stop for a funeral procession, unless a police escort requires it.

"It's courtesy and respect," Summerville said. "It's something we do here in the South."

Summerville said he worked a crash involving a woman whose vehicle struck a vehicle that had stopped for a funeral procession. The driver was unaware of the regional custom and struck the car on the crest of a hill. Summerville said no one was hurt and the cars were drivable.

Summerville said Alabama cities can have their own ordinances regarding funeral processions. In Huntsville, for example, funeral processions cannot have more than 25 vehicles.

Muscle Shoals City Clerk Ricky Williams said in Muscle Shoals, it's illegal to drive through a funeral procession while it's in motion or any other motorized procession when vehicles are conspicuously designated. That provision does not apply at intersections where traffic is controlled by traffic signals or a police officer.

Each driver in a procession is to drive as far to the right of the road as possible and follow as closely and safely as possible. Williams said those rules date back to 1979. Police will provide escorts with advance notice if they have the time.

Florence police Officer Ricky Sharp said a city ordinance gives funeral processions the right of way when on city streets, except to emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire trucks. It's also unlawful to cross a funeral procession, either at an intersection or other location.

Sharp said there also is a state law that prohibits blocking a funeral procession or disrupting a funeral or memorial service either at a funeral home, church or cemetery. The offense is a misdemeanor for the first time and increases to a lesser felony for a second conviction.

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