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Frank Gray

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Courtesy for funeral processions hits nerve

Most people know that emergency vehicles have the right of way. If one is approaching from behind or in front of you, you are supposed to pull over, get out of its way and stop.

The same thing goes for funeral processions – sort of.

If you have the misfortune of trying to cross the street when a funeral procession is passing, you just have to wait. If you’re at an intersection and you have a green light, you still have to sit until the procession passes.

It’s also illegal to jump into a line of cars on their way to a cemetery.

The reason is simple. These processions need to stay together and not get fragmented so people don’t get lost. You could call it a common courtesy.

I got a call from a woman, though, who has a problem with funeral processions that are causing headaches for her. What you might call common courtesy or respect for the dead is getting out of hand, she says.

The woman said she was going to write a letter to the editor with her complaint, but she didn’t because she didn’t want to sign her name.

It’s a unique name, the only one in the book, she says.

She agreed to talk to me, but only as long as I guaranteed I wouldn’t use her name.

But here’s her story.

This woman, who seems to get rattled pretty easily, judging from our conversation, lives in a housing development off Covington Road. Getting places isn’t hard. All she has to do is take a street to Covington, turn right and head out for Time Corners.

What’s complicating her life is the existence of two cemeteries on Covington Road.

Normally, funeral processions don’t interfere with the woman’s travels. When she heads out she drives east on Covington, while the funeral processions are headed west. The two just pass each other.

Problems arise, though, when people heading east decide that they have to stop and let the funeral pass. Covington is only a two-lane road, and there’s no way to pull off the side of the road, so traffic stops, dead.

People don’t know the law, the woman says. You’re not allowed to jump in to funeral processions, but there’s no law that says you must stop as one passes in the opposite direction.

On one occasion the woman was in a left-turn lane and had to wait for a procession to pass before she could turn, she said, but when she looked over, there was a woman in the lane next to her heading straight who just sat, waiting for the funeral to pass as cars lined up behind her.

Well, I told her, I guess it’s some sort of gesture of respect for the dead.

Maybe so, she said, but because there are two cemeteries along Covington, she runs into this all the time. What about respect for the living people behind you, she asked.

I talked to the police about the rules of the road. No, said Michael Joyner, a spokesman for the Fort Wayne Police Department, you don’t have to stop for funerals heading the other way, but people do it sometimes as a gesture. He said he’s seen it happen all over the country.

You do have to use some common sense, he said. You wouldn’t decide to stop on Coliseum Boulevard for a funeral passing on the other side of the road.

I can sympathize with the woman. I’ve seen people pull over in the past and just changed lanes and passed them.

Just know that that is legal. You are not required to stop for funerals passing you by.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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