Mark McCown: Funeral processions have right of way
Dear Lawyer Mark: I was coming out from the WalMart the other day, and when I got to an intersection where I had a green light, noticed that cars were running a stop light.
I had to slam on my brakes, and then noticed that it was a funeral procession.
I couldn’t tell it was at first because the lead car had already passed the intersection when I got there.
That got me thinking.
I’ve heard that funerals have the right of way and can ignore traffic signs, and that even ambulances and police cars have to wait for them to go by.
Is that really true?
I know that happens in town, but can they really do that on the highway? — ALMOST ACCIDENTAL
Dear Almost: The answers to your questions come from Ohio Revised Code 4511.451.
That section, which is contained in the title concerning traffic laws, says that unless “directed otherwise by a police officer, pedestrians and the operators of all vehicles shall yield the right of way to each vehicle that is a part of a funeral procession.”
This gives the right of way to funeral processions.
The section goes on to say that if the lead car of the procession lawfully enters an intersection, then all other cars in the procession may follow it, and ignore any traffic control devices (stop signs and stop lights).
This means that if the lead car had a green light, all other cars in the procession could continue to follow him, even if the light turns red.
Likewise, the lead car would have to initially stop at a stop sign, but once it then enters the intersection, no other car in the procession would have to stop at the sign.
Now, this doesn’t mean that anyone can just hop into a funeral procession to go through all the stop lights.
The code section mandates members of the procession do three things: 1) all cars in the procession must have their headlights on, 2) all cars in the procession must have either a purple and white or orange and white pennant, and 3) the drivers in the procession must use due care to avoid colliding with another car or a pedestrian.
If you do not yield the right of way (or a member of the procession violates the above requirements), in addition to civil liability and other traffic offenses, you can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined $150.
Additional violations of the same statute within a year could also result in jail time and increased fines.
There are at least two other myths dealing with processions.
Public safety vehicles with their lights and sirens are not required to wait for the procession; members of the procession must yield to them.
Also, while it is viewed as a sign of respect for the deceased and mourners, and often observed in this area, oncoming traffic is not legally required to turn on their headlights, or pull over and stop.
Thought for the Day: Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today. — James Dean
It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.