Funeral Processions and Safety

Recently, I posted about a friend’s death, and my experiences in the funeral procession.  I spoke about the fact that we were routed down I-45, only an hour or so after rush hour.  I mentioned that several times, people cut in and out of our procession, often leaving us no choice but to let them in, or have a collision.  This wasn’t a “risk of a collision” type of situation; had we not let the people into the line, there would have been a collission, as the people simply stuck their nose in as soon as they saw an opening.
Needless to say, this puts everyone in the procession at risk, as well as the other people on the freeway.  One of our readers commented to the entry, reminding me that the police officers on the funeral detail are also put at high risk.  Let me explain how officers work on funeral processions.
Often, there are three or more officers.  On freeways, I’ve rarely seen processions with fewer than four officers.  One officer stays ahead of the procession, at all times.  The rest are filtered back through the procession.  The officers block the entrance ramps to the freeway, as the procession passes by.  When the next-to-last car passes the last officer, that officer guns his motorcycle and rushes ahead (at speeds up to seventy miles per hour, sometimes), and runs up to where the next officer is.  At that point, the officer there takes off and rides ahead to the next, and so on.  It’s, essentially, a rolling blockade by the officers.
This presents a danger to the officers in the following manner:
  1. When someone attempts to cut in line, they may cause a procession member to swerve to avoid being hit (or hitting the cutter).  That member may swerve into the path (or even right into the side) of an officer, as the officer races up the side of the procession.
  2. When someone cuts in line, often times they will cut OUT of line, left or right, without looking, and may wind up colliding with an officer.  This happens most frequently, when someone cuts into the line, and then “dives” for an exit at the last second.
  3. Someone could cut in line, and cause a collision that spirals outward and involves an officer and who knows how many other motorists.

Folks, please, when you encounter a funeral procession – especially on the freeway – do not attempt to cut into the line.  First off, it’s very disrespectful.  Secondly, it presents a danger to you, as well as the people in the procession, as well as the officers escorting.  If you need to make an exit, try slowing down (prepare well ahead of time, for that matter), and waiting until the end of the procession line, then get over.  If you miss the exit, simply take the next one.  Folks, there’s always an alternate route.  Please, for the love of life, don’t try to dive for an exit at the last second (ever, but especially under these circumstances).

As for people IN the procession, I’ll let Lesli explain it in the words she wrote in her comment:

PLEASE, if you are in a funeral procession….DO NOT let someone in and break the line. You might be providing a shield for that officer who is racing up to the front to bump his partner. Also, if you let someone in the procession they may decide to make a turn either left or right and collide with an officer as he is doing his job trying to get you where you need to go. (Lesli Zamora, in comments to “Respect“.)

Be safe, Houston.  Please.  We want to keep you around for a while.  Without you, this city would just be another mud hole on the side of the road, on the way to Florida.

5 Comments so far

  1. Steve (unregistered) on December 12th, 2005 @ 8:21 pm

    It works both ways. I was in a 4 car pile up underneath an intersection because a cop pulled his bike out in the middle of the intersection and forced the lead car to stop suddenly. An elderly lady two cars behind me was killed. No one had time to stop. The cop was a complete ass and this incident was entirely his fault. You cant race around like a mad man in Houston traffic without some sort of repercussions to your actions which is sort of the point of your initial post but as I said, “It works both ways”. I am sick of careless cops flying around like they own the roads with no regard for the safety of the citizens. /end rant

  2. Scott (unregistered) on December 12th, 2005 @ 11:19 pm

    I’m of the opinion they shouldn’t allow funeral procession. Beyond the safety risks mentioned in the post, the traffic they cause is enormously expensive, well beyond any city fees paid for the procession. The whole idea of a procession seems pretty ostentatious to me.

  3. katya (unregistered) on December 13th, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

    Interesting follow-up to your previous post. I see a real need for a funeral procession – mostly b/c I get lost everywhere I go, and on the day of a funeral is not a day that I’m going to go out of my way and get directions (or really follow them for that matter). Plus there’s something very ‘Far and Away’ about grouping together (in a line) as a grieving unit and following your loved one to their final resting place. It shows solidarity, to me at least. What is the history of the funeral procession, I wonder??

  4. Eric (unregistered) on December 17th, 2005 @ 7:51 pm

    You know, I’ve been looking and looking, and can’t find much about the history of the funeral procession. Maybe that’s something to submit to Ask Yahoo!. heh.

  5. Lesli Zamora (unregistered) on December 20th, 2005 @ 10:57 pm

    Thank you so much for posting my comment. I’m pleased to see that people have responded to the subject matter at hand.
    As everybody knows, escorting funerals is a dangerous job. Officer’s have to be specially trained to provide the service. Would you want to try to stop a vehicle coming at you at 65 plus miles per hour on a freeway? They don’t either. What if its raining? We’ve all seen the officer’s escorting funerals in pouring rain. They have no choice because its their job. I’m sorry for the loss of life that Steve experienced during a funeral procession. Officer’s want to go home to their families at the end of the ride. They do not pull out in front of traffic without the proper procedures, i.e. lights, sirens…etc. They do not want to be killed by a motorist who is not paying attention. We have all seen speeders and others not paying attention while they drive about. I’ve even seen people reading newspapers and putting on makeup as they drive. The officer’s have to look out for not only themselves but everyone else around them including their partners as well. People driving under the influence of grief may not be paying attention and that could also lead to accidents. Many officer’s have given their lives providing funeral escorts and that is no laughing matter. As far as officer’s with bad attitudes…..would you be happy if you spent everyday of your life dodging speeders, drunks, and careless drivers risking your own life and knowing you might not go home that day because of someone else’s carelessness? I think not. Granted, these officer’s choose this job but that does not mean the risk is any less. They protect and serve us. Who protects them?

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