What’s in the law for funeral processions?
Published 9:37 am Thursday, December 31, 2015
Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson
Question: I encountered a funeral procession along a two-lane highway (no roads entering this section of highway), and the lead funeral home vehicle had a light bar on the dash flashing an alternating red and blue light. Everyone on the highway going opposite the procession pulled over to the shoulder, thinking it was a police officer. Is this legal for the funeral home to do and what is the protocol for vehicles encountering this?
Answer: Funeral home vehicles may utilize flashing red lights for the purpose of escorting funeral processions. Blue flashing lights are not permitted in this instance.
According to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.64: “Flashing lights are prohibited, except on an authorized emergency vehicle, school bus, bicycle as provided in section 169.222, subdivision 6, road maintenance equipment, tow truck or towing vehicle, service vehicle, farm tractor, self-propelled farm equipment, rural mail carrier vehicle, funeral home vehicle or on any vehicle as a means of indicating a right or left turn, or the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing. All flashing warning lights shall be of the type authorized by section 169.59, subdivision 4, unless otherwise permitted or required in this chapter.”
M.S.S. 169.04 allows red lights stating, “specifically the use of motorcycles or vehicles that are owned by the funeral home and that utilize flashing red lights for the purpose of escorting funeral processions.”
M.S.S. 169.20 covers funeral processions: “When any funeral procession identifies itself by using regular lights on all cars and by keeping all cars in close formation, the driver of every other vehicle, except an emergency vehicle, shall yield the right-of-way.”
Right-of-way is the privilege to proceed with precedence over others in a particular situation or place. To yield to the right-of-way, you must safely move to the right and stop. If you are in an intersection, proceed through before stopping. Remain stopped until all those with the right-of-way have passed. You are not required to stop if the approaching procession or emergency vehicle(s) are separated from your lane of traffic by a physical barrier such as a fence, wall or median strip.
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848 or reach him at Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us.
Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.