Funeral processions seem to be an endless source of confusion for many area drivers, so once again I will try to explain the rules and their reasons.
Q. If I enter an intersection on a green light and get hit by a vehicle that happens to be part of a funeral motorcade going through red, who is at fault?
Just what is Indiana law regarding funeral processions? – Sieg Schauffele
A. Well, Sieg, my first advice is to avoid a collision, regardless of who would be at fault.
State law – Indiana Code 9-21-13-1 – does permit a procession to travel through a red light if it is led by an escort vehicle that has a flashing red light. Of course, the procession must stop for emergency vehicles or as directed by a police officer.
Dave McComb, president of D.O. McComb & Sons, is highly aware of the rules his processions must follow. While he understands that processions can travel through a red light, he said his escort drivers are instructed to slowly pull into those intersections to give cross traffic enough time to see them and stop.
On major streets, such as Clinton or Lafayette, drivers cant be expected to know they will have to stop at a green light, so this approach makes sense.
There are reasons processions are given this ability, outside of being respectful. McComb said the best practice for a procession to remain safe is to remain compact.
Having a procession be forced to stop and then go again at different signals would likely lead it to be divided between intersections – think Main Street downtown with its numerous signalized cross streets.
The more constant the speed of the procession, he said, the closer the cars will stay together. McComb added that vehicles in the procession are each given a card instructing drivers to turn on their emergency flashers and bright beams and to follow as close as safety permits.
Each vehicle also should be marked with a flag.
Of course giving the procession the right-of-way is different from unnecessarily causing traffic obstacles. I received a separate question about when it is appropriate to stop for a funeral procession.
State law does not require vehicles to pull over and let a procession pass. In fact, the law allows drivers to pass a procession on a multilane road, as long as it can be done safely. Vehicles, however, are not allowed to swerve in and out of a procession.
Yet another safety issue is the practice in which some motorists pull off the road for funeral processions coming in the opposite direction, sometimes blocking through traffic.
Sgt. Ron Galaviz, spokesman for the Indiana State Police, said he understands why people might want to do this, to show respect, but he agreed that such actions can pose a safety hazard, especially when other drivers choose not to pull over.
Drivers who feel the need to show respect for the procession should pull all the way off the road, allowing other motorists to pass, Galaviz said.
While processions can sometimes cause delays while driving, McComb said they have been a part of cultures across the world for centuries.
I think its a very important part of the ceremony to have processions, he said.
As if writing about funeral processions wasnt enough, I get to discuss another frequent topic: the Lake Avenue diet.
As many drivers are probably aware, Lake was closed between Anthony Boulevard and Randallia Drive this past week.
This closure for utility work came as a surprise to me, especially as city officials previously said such closures would be limited to weekends to avoid disrupting traffic.
Frank Suarez, a city spokesman, said the work was originally going to be done over two weekends, but the city and crews decided that after they were in the road working, it would be simplest to keep it closed until the work was complete.
Simplest? I guess if you arent commuting on Lake every day. Its hoped the closure will at least help the project move along.
The entire diet project, which reduces Lake Avenue from four lanes to three lanes between Anthony and Stanley Avenue, is scheduled to be completed Aug. 18.
This weeks bonus audio question comes from Dave Zimmerman, who asked about Ellison Road.
The segment originally aired Friday afternoon on WOWO and can be heard online at www.journalgazette.net/roadsage.