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Funeral procession laws in NH

New Hampshire has revised statutes on funeral processions related to the right-of-way for vehicles, the escort vehicle and funeral lead vehicles. The current funeral procession laws (Statutes 265:156) state:

“The operator of a funeral lead vehicle shall comply with stop signs and traffic control signals. When the funeral lead vehicle has proceeded across an intersection in accordance with a signal or after stopping as required by a stop sign, all vehicles in the funeral procession may proceed without stopping, regardless of the sign or signal. The lead vehicle and the vehicles in the funeral procession shall proceed with due caution. Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall have the right-of-way.”

Funeral procession laws

  • Lead vehicle: The operator of a lead funeral vehicle has the responsibility of proceeding with due caution, and also the right of way with other vehicles. The lead vehicle must also comply with all stop signs and other traffic control signals. At all times, the lead funeral vehicle must display a purple flashing light or emergency light.
  • Vehicles in the funeral procession: Once the lead vehicle has crossed the intersection, whether turning or going straight through, all other vehicles in the procession have the right-of-way, which allows them to follow the preceding vehicle in the procession (as closely as is practical and safe) without stopping, regardless of signs or signals they may encounter. Each vehicle of the procession must be marked with either funeral flags or signs on the windshield, as well as headlights, taillights, and hazard lights if they are present on the vehicle. Under all circumstances, vehicles in the funeral procession must exercise caution.
  • Vehicles not in the funeral procession: Drivers not part of the funeral process shall not drive between the vehicles forming the procession while it is in motion, except when directed by a police officer or if the vehicle is an emergency vehicle giving an audible or visible signal. Vehicle operators that are not part of a funeral procession are expressly prohibited from joining the funeral process to gain right of way. Vehicles may not attempt to pass vehicles in a funeral procession on a two-lane roadway. When a funeral procession proceeds through a red signal, any driver not part of the procession may not enter the intersection, even if they have a green signal, unless they can enter and exit the intersection without crossing the procession’s path.

Funeral procession etiquette

Aside from the NH laws for funeral processions, there are also common rules of etiquette to be followed whether you’re part of the funeral procession or encounter one while driving. There are ways to ensure the procession isn’t broken on the way to the cemetery or burial ground:

Procession participants

Participants in the funeral procession should maintain slower speeds than normal and should remain as close as  safely possible to the car in front of them during the procession. This will prevent other vehicles on the road from interrupting the procession. Headlights should  remain on for every car in the procession for its entirety.

It’s  important to remain in line with the procession from beginning to end. Unless it is unsafe, drivers are permitted to go through a red light at intersections to keep in line with the procession. All other drivers are required to yield for the procession line.

The last driver in the procession line will be marked with two funeral flags and is required to have their hazard lights on and flashing to indicate to other drivers where the procession ends. In cases where a procession is quite long, there may be flags placed on multiple vehicles throughout the procession.

Close family and friends not riding in the first limousine or other designated vehicle should arrive at the funeral home or church well before the procession starts (about 45 minutes early) to be near the front of the procession.

Other drivers

It’s important to recognize the signs indicating that a funeral procession is on the road, and to drive accordingly. Funeral processions often begin with a lead car, usually a black sedan marked by  white funeral flags and flashing hazard lights. If you see these signs, it’s important to be courteous and let the procession pass.

After the lead car, you will see the hearse, followed by any family cars/limousines, and the remaining procession participants. The first family car is usually marked with a funeral flag, which is typically a bright orange color, and reads, Funeral. The last driver should be clearly marked with funeral flags and flashing hazard lights, just as with the lead car.

Some processions will have flags marking every car in the procession; others will only have flags for the front cars and the final car. It is incumbent upon other drivers on the road to be cognizant of what funeral processions look like.

Be respectful to a funeral procession

Regardless of whether you’re in a hurry, or just plain impatient, it’s highly disrespectful to not yield to  cars in a funeral procession. They should be clearly marked and behaving uniformly and, therefore, easy to spot in traffic. Use common sense, and tune into your considerate side. Don’t cut people off. Don’t honk. Don’t try to pass the procession. You may have lost a few minutes by letting the procession pass, but try to remember that the people in that procession have lost something far greater – a loved one – and they’d probably give a whole lot to trade places with you.

One more reminder: Despite the fact the procession has the right of way, it’s important that vehicles in the procession exercise caution because not everyone is aware of the law. Be on the lookout for cars trying to dart through an opening or who hit the gas when the light turns green.

This post answers the questions:

What is a funeral procession

Are you supposed to pull over for a funeral procession

Can you pass a funeral procession

What is a funeral procession

Funeral processions often begin with a lead car, usually a black sedan marked by white funeral flags and flashing hazard lights.

Are you supposed to pull over for a funeral procession

When a funeral procession proceeds through a red signal, any driver not part of the procession may not enter the intersection, even if they have a green signal, unless they can enter and exit the intersection without crossing the procession’s path.

Can you pass a funeral procession

Don’t try to pass the procession. You may have lost a few minutes by letting the procession pass, but try to remember that the people in that procession have lost something far greater – a loved one – and they’d probably give a whole lot to trade places with you.

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