We’ve all seen funeral processions pass by, and many South Carolina drivers want to pay their respects when they encounter a line of cars following a hearse. We were raised to believe that the respectful thing to do is to pull the car to the side of the road and slow to a stop. We do this out of respect for the deceased, as well as a way of showing support for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. But is this law, or is it just a custom? Do you need to stop for a funeral procession?
To better understand this common custom, consider how South Carolina law treats funeral processions.
Requirements for Funeral Processions
Under Section 56-5-1930 of the South Carolina Motor Vehicle Code, cars being driven in motorcades must generally allow enough space between vehicles to allow another vehicle to occupy the space in between. In other words, cars cannot drive too closely to each other, even in caravans and motorcades.
However, the law expressly exempts funeral processions from this restriction. This seems to suggest that funeral processions can travel very closely together to keep other vehicles out of the procession.
Do You Have to Stop?
In general, a motorist in South Carolina does not have to stop when a funeral procession is passing. Pulling over and stopping is more of a custom or courtesy, but there is currently no legal requirement that you must pull over.
However, many funeral processions will have law enforcement escorts. Motorists do have to yield to law enforcement vehicles with flashing lights or officers who are directing traffic outside of large assemblies.
For instance, the local police department or sheriff’s department may direct traffic outside of a funeral home or at an intersection to prevent accidents and make sure that the entire motorcade can leave at the same time without creating undue hazards. You must obey the traffic directions of law enforcement when an officer is present.
There have been efforts from time to time to give funeral processions the legal right-of-way.
Most recently, retired Greenville police officer and current State Representative, Mike Pitts, introduced House Bill 4472 to create specific rules applicable to funeral processions. The South Carolina legislature adjourned without passing the legislation.
The bill would have given funeral processions in South Carolina the right-of-way at intersections. Funeral processions escorted by law enforcement vehicles would have had the right-of-way at any street or highway through which they passed.
All vehicles in a funeral procession would still have had to yield to:
- Emergency/law enforcement vehicles using lights and sirens
- Instructions by law enforcement or traffic officers
Local governments would have been allowed to impose reasonable fees to cover the cost of having law enforcement provide funeral escorts.
Effect on Others on the Road
If passed, the legislation would have required all others on the road to yield to and not interfere with a funeral procession unless directed to do so by law enforcement or when necessary to yield to emergency vehicles. But the legislation did not pass, so pulling over for a funeral procession in South Carolina remains an unwritten courtesy and not a requirement.
Tips for Driving Safely and Respectfully Near a Funeral Procession
If you are driving in or around Lancaster, Indian Land, Heath Springs, Kershaw, or the surrounding areas of South Carolina, it’s important to exercise caution at all times. We are a growing region, and traffic is increasing. You should always show respect to other motorists and do what you feel comfortable doing to display that respect.
If it is safe for you to slow to a stop or pull to the road shoulder when a funeral procession passes, go ahead. If the traffic conditions do not seem appropriate to stop on the shoulder, or traffic is moving too fast to safely stop, then do not attempt to do so.
You should always use caution and expect the unexpected. A driver in a funeral procession may assume that other vehicles not in the procession will yield even if the funeral procession does not have the right-of-way.
Here are some good rules of thumb for driving around a funeral procession.
- Slow down and maintain a reasonable speed
- Pull over only if safe to do so
- Do not stop or brake unexpectedly
- Law enforcement and emergency vehicles always take priority
- Obey law officers directing traffic when present
- Never try to get in the middle of a funeral procession
- Never try to pass cars in a funeral procession
- Give cars in the procession space and never tailgate
- Turn down your radio and ask passengers to be quiet so you can listen for sirens
After a Car Accident in South Carolina, Call For Help
At David Blackwell Law, we take our duties to others seriously and we treat everyone with personal respect and courtesy. Throughout South Carolina, injured individuals and their families count on us to fight for their rights and protect them from insurance companies who would deny them reasonable compensation after tragic injuries. If you have been injured by someone else, we will fight for you, regardless of the cost or risk.
With decades of experience and a proven record of success in and out of the courtroom, David Blackwell Law has the resources and legal experience to stand up for your rights. We will work hard to put you on the road to recovery after a car crash caused by another motorist. We never take a fee unless we are able to help you collect compensation and consultations are entirely free, so there’s no risk. Just contact us to learn more and see how we might be able to help you and your family today.