Driver Education 101: What a motorist should do when encountering a funeral procession.
True or false: Tennessee law requires drivers meeting a funeral procession in the opposite lane of traffic to pull over to the side of the road as a show of respect for the deceased.
Answer: False. The practice is a Southern courtesy, not a requirement of law.
The Tennessee Code Annotated 55-8-183, says no driver shall ‘“fail to yield the right of way” to a funeral procession “progressing through an intersection.” Drivers are not to “pass or attempt to pass”; “drive or attempt to drive between” the vehicles in a “properly identified funeral procession.”
There is no stipulation in the law, however, requiring drivers to pull over when meeting a funeral procession.
State law requires:
(a) Funeral processions properly identified by a flashing amber light on the lead vehicle, or identified as a police escort, where the vehicle has visual signals and is equipped with or displays an amber light accompanied by a blue light visible from the front of the vehicle, or led by a properly identified escort, shall have the right-of-way on any street, highway, or road through which they may pass, subject to the following provisions:
(1) The operator of the leading vehicle in a funeral procession shall comply with stop signs and traffic-control signals, but when the leading vehicle has progressed across an intersection in accordance with that signal or after stopping as required by the stop sign, all vehicles of the procession may proceed without stopping regardless of the sign or signal when each of these vehicles has its headlights lighted;
(2) Vehicles in a funeral procession shall drive on the right-hand side of the roadway and shall follow the vehicle ahead as close as is practical and safe;
(3) Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall yield the right-of-way to an authorized emergency vehicle giving audible signal by siren and shall yield the right-of-way when directed to do so by a traffic officer;
(4) On public highways and interstates, vehicles in a funeral procession shall proceed at a minimum speed of forty-five miles per hour (45 mph); and otherwise, on streets and roads at a speed not to exceed five miles per hour (5 mph) below the posted speed;
(5) Vehicles following a funeral procession on a two-lane highway may not attempt to pass the procession; and
(6) No operator of a vehicle shall drive between vehicles in a properly identified funeral procession except when directed to do so by a traffic officer.
So remember, pulling over to the side of the road to when you encounter a funeral procession is a sign of respect not required by state law. Perhaps that makes the gesture even more meaningful.