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State law governs funeral processions

We were stopped for a red light in the far right lane of westbound 118th Avenue at the intersection of 49th Street N when a black car with a flashing light zipped past us on the right, crossed the intersection against the light and parked on the other side. A man rather casually dressed (not in any type of uniform) jumped out with a stop sign for the north/south traffic and was wildly waving us forward against the red light. A hearse pulled up behind us and blasted what sounded like a bullhorn.

As the man in the street with the stop sign waved for us to cross, a car going north whizzed by (they did have a green light). If we had gone when he waved us on, there is no doubt we would have had a serious accident. He was upset and said something when we rode by. As we proceeded, we saw that they turned in at Calvary Catholic Cemetery on 118th Avenue. Don't the traffic rules apply to a funeral procession?

Ron and Pat Fraser

It seems that you unintentionally became part of a two-vehicle funeral procession. The short answer to your question is yes, funeral processions must comply with Florida Statutes, a topic the Doc has covered in the past, but it bears repeating in addition to some clarification.

First, Florida law allows that funeral processions (described as "two or more vehicles accompanying the body of a deceased person, or traveling to the church, chapel, or other location at which the funeral service is to be held, in the daylight hours, including a funeral lead vehicle or a funeral escort vehicle'') have the right of way. The key is the presence of a lead car, which may be a law enforcement vehicle or some other vehicle, such as a funeral home car outfitted with the proper equipment. But this doesn't mean we have a free pass to run red lights with impunity, nor does it mean that the driver of the lead vehicle may attempt to compel motorists to run red lights or in any other way endanger others for the sake of maintaining a nonstop procession.

Florida law says that when the procession's lead vehicle lawfully enters an intersection, either by reason of a traffic control device or at the direction of law enforcement personnel, the remaining vehicles in the procession may follow through the intersection regardless of any traffic control devices or right-of-way provisions prescribed by state or local law and all motor and pedestrian traffic is required to yield the right-of-way to the procession. This means that once the lead car of a funeral procession has legally entered an intersection all other vehicles in the procession may follow behind it, even if the traffic signal turns red. The exception to this is if an emergency vehicle appears on the scene and needs to get through, or if a law enforcement officer directs the procession to stop.

If the driver of the lead car for the hearse described in our reader's letter indeed ran a red light — entering the intersection after the light had turned red without a law enforcement officer present who directed the lead car through the light — this constituted a moving violation.

Barricade watch

• In Seminole, work to repair sewer pipes under Park Boulevard will continue to affect eastbound traffic from Seminole Boulevard to Seminole Isles Boulevard in front of Home Depot. Repair work, which has been ongoing since the Fourth of July weekend, should be wrapped up by Friday. In the meantime, expect more delays. Suggested detour routes are Seminole Boulevard, Starkey Road/Park Street and 102nd Avenue N/Bryan Dairy Road.

• In Clearwater, the southbound lane of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from Lakeview Road to Woodlawn Avenue will be closed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday for a water line replacement. Motorists may use Missouri and Fort Harrison avenues as detour routes.

Email Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share traffic concerns, comments and questions. Follow @AskDrDelay on Twitter.

Funeral procession rights are not unlimited

State law governs funeral processions 08/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 1:51pm]
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