All Georgia motorist have, at some point in time, experienced a funeral procession traveling down the roadway. The vast majority of citizens slow down and yield to the funeral procession as a sign of respect to the family that lost a loved one. Many citizens have also wondered if there are laws governing funeral processions and what are motorists required to do when they encounter a funeral procession.
Georgia law describes the requirements of a funeral procession. The lead vehicle is required to display a designating device to show it is from a funeral home or it must be led by a state or local law enforcement agency. Furthermore, participants in the procession must have their headlights on (typically their hazard lights too for safety reasons).
Funeral processions have the right-of-way at all intersections, unless an authorized emergency vehicle is approaching with visible lights and sirens, or if a motorist is being directed by a law enforcement officer at the intersection to continue.
While the procession is traveling on the street or highway and being led by a Sheriff, Sheriff’s Deputy, or a police agency, the procession has the right-of-way as it passes other streets.
Other motorist not in the funeral procession cannot interrupt the procession unless advised to do so by a law enforcement officer.
Motorist not involved in the funeral procession cannot join the funeral procession for the purposes of securing the right-of-way at intersections.
Motorist not involved in the funeral procession cannot pass the procession on a two-lane highway.
It should also be stated that if you are traveling on a multi-lane highway, such as U.S. Hwy 27, and you see a funeral procession approaching from the opposite direction of travel, you are not required by law to stop for the funeral procession. For example, if you are traveling northbound on Hwy 27 and you see a funeral procession traveling in the southbound direction, you are not required to stop unless it is at an intersection, due to the funeral procession having the right-of-way at all intersections. It is typically considered polite and respectful to stop in this situation, but it is not required by Georgia law. If you are traveling in the same direction of the funeral procession, it is illegal to pass the funeral procession on a multi-lane highway, unless given direction to do so by law enforcement.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) advises the following in regards to funeral processions in the State of Georgia:
OCGA 40-6-76 Funeral Processions
- As used in this Code section, a “funeral procession” means an array of motor vehicles in which the lead vehicle displays a sign, pennant, flag, or other insignia furnished by a funeral home indicating a funeral procession unless led by a state or local law enforcement vehicle and each vehicle participating in the funeral procession is operating its headlights.
- Funeral processions shall have the right of way at intersections subject to the following conditions and exceptions:
- Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall yield the right of way upon the approach of an authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle giving an audible and visual signal; and
- Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall yield the right of way when directed to do so by a traffic officer.
- Funeral processions escorted by the police, a sheriff, or a sheriff’s deputy shall have the right of way in any street or highway through which they may pass. Local governments may, by ordinance, provide for such escort service and provide for the imposition of reasonable fees to defray the cost of such service.
- The operator of a vehicle not in a funeral procession shall not interrupt a funeral procession except when authorized to do so by a traffic officer or when such vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle giving an audible and visual signal.
- Operators of vehicles not a part of a funeral procession shall not join a funeral procession by operating their headlights for the purpose of securing the right of way granted by this Code section to funeral processions.
- The operator of a vehicle not in a funeral procession shall not attempt to pass vehicles in a funeral procession on a two-lane highway.
- Any person violating subsection (d), (e), or (f) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100.00.