Basic Funeral Procession Rules and Etiquette

Published May 28, 2020
casket in an open hearse

A funeral procession is a path walked or driven from the funeral service to the cemetery or crematorium. Whether you are driving or walking in a funeral procession, or come across one as you are heading somewhere, it's good to know the proper etiquette and rules so you know what to do.

What to Do if You Are Driving in a Funeral Procession

Keep in mind that if you are a family member or close friend of the deceased individual, you may be driving in the funeral procession. In this case, you should arrive at the funeral service a bit early, as your car will be parked in order of arrival with other vehicles also driving in the funeral procession. Immediate family members may be riding in a limo, or driving their own cars in the funeral procession, depending on what they want. After the funeral service, you will head back to your car and the procession will begin. While driving:

  • Note that the hearse carrying the deceased individual in their casket, will most likely be leading the procession. A black vehicle with "funeral" flags may also lead, followed by the hearse.
  • Drive close to the car in front of you and try not to allow any other cars to cut into the procession as you drive towards the cemetery or crematorium.
  • In case of an emergency, you can leave the funeral procession line, but otherwise, stay in line with the other vehicles in the procession.
  • States have different laws regarding right-of-way for funeral processions, but in general, if the hearse goes through a green light, regardless of what color the light turns, the entire procession is allowed to pass through the intersection while other cars yield. Check with your state for clarification.
  • Once you arrive at the cemetery or crematorium, you will park your car and head to the burial site or crematorium following on foot those who parked ahead of you.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles even if it means breaking the funeral procession line.
  • Typically you will be asked to put your headlights on and may also be given a flag to place on your vehicle. This will be collected upon arrival.

How Fast Do You Drive in Funeral Procession?

Funeral processions typically move more slowly than traffic to ensure the safety of everyone driving, as well as to show respect for the deceased individual's body. Usually a funeral procession will drive around 30 to 50 miles per hour on the road and highway. On side streets and in parking lots, funeral processions will typically drive even slower than the posted speed limit.

What to Do if You Encounter a Funeral Procession

If you see a hearse, followed by several cars, chances are you are witnessing a funeral procession. If you are on foot and need to cross the street, wait until the procession has passed before crossing. While states have different rules regarding funeral processions, it's always best to yield to the procession if possible. Keep in mind:

  • There will be a lead car and a final car.
  • The final car will most likely have their hazard lights on and a flag.
  • Do not cut in between the funeral procession. It's disrespectful and can add stress to the drivers in the funeral procession who are trying to get to the cemetery or crematorium.
people at a funeral procession

How Do You Know when the Funeral Procession Is Over?

The last car in the funeral procession will usually have their hazard lights on and one or two flags with the words "funeral" on them. Once you see this car pass, you can resume normal traffic.

Do I Need to Pull Over or Stop for a Funeral Procession?

Legally you do not need to pull over or stop for a funeral procession, but it is custom to yield to a funeral procession as they have the right of way. You can pull over for a funeral procession if you'd like and it is safe to do so, but this is a personal choice.

Can You Pass a Funeral Procession?

With regard to passing a funeral procession, unless there is an emergency, don't honk or try to pass the funeral procession. You can pass a funeral procession if need be, but typically it's not respectful to do so. If you choose to pass, wait until the last car in the procession has gone by before switching lanes and follow all laws regarding passing.

Understanding Funeral Procession Rules and Etiquette

Knowing what to do if you are driving in a funeral procession or encounter one can be very helpful in preparing you for this experience. While some rules may seem strange, they are all in the spirit in offering those in mourning the highest level of respect as their loved one's body is transported to a final resting place.

Basic Funeral Procession Rules and Etiquette