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Funeral Processions And A Baseball Bat

Re-reading all the road rage stories in the archives reminded me of an incident I was part of.

My brother and I were going to the local game store. He was driving, and he was in the left lane (of a four lane road) because the store was on the left. Lo and behold, a funeral procession came along. All the cars in the right lane immediately pulled over out of respect, but we weren’t sure what to do, seeing as we were in the left lane. We spotted an empty spot in between two cars and pulled into that, figuring that would be enough compromise.

Imagine our shock when this lady came out of the car in front of us and began banging on my brother’s window, yelling about us being very rude and driving during a funeral procession and didn’t we have any respect for the dead and we should be ashamed of ourselves. My brother and I just looked at her, looked at each other, then shrugged and went back to watching the procession.

“I’M TALKING TO YOU!” she shrieked through the window and went back to her car. The processional cleared and we pulled out to resume our journey.

Ironically, the man BEHIND us was going to the game store as well, and said that as we pulled away, she had pulled a BASEBALL bat out of her car and had been heading towards us. He said she had looked scared when she realized traffic was resuming and bolted back into her car as quickly as possible.

Incidentally, he said that he would have done the same thing had he been in the left lane.  0424-10

{ 56 comments… add one }
  • AS May 13, 2010, 10:29 am

    I don’t get this woman… what else were you supposed to do? I think your brother did the right thing by parking at the next available spot. I’d have done the same thing too. It is not as if you knew there was going to be a funeral procession, and hence avoid the left extreme lane!
    If there is any better suggestion from other readers, I’d be interested in knowing too. I am sure it’ll come in handy. Also, it will be good if someone can throw some light on what can be done if this woman had actually tried to hit original poster’s car (and if the police do not come to immediate rescue).

  • Rosey May 13, 2010, 10:43 am

    I’m confused. Where was the empty spot? Did you have to interrupt the processional in order to pull over?

  • Casey May 13, 2010, 10:47 am

    Obviously you should’ve gotten out of your car, lifted it and carried it to an appropriate spot. How rude can you be?

    Why do people feel the need to butt in when it’s not any of their concern? She wasn’t part of the procession, right? Some people have way too much time and anger on their hands.

  • SammyHammy May 13, 2010, 10:49 am

    Since you weren’t sure what to do, here’s some advice for the future. If you see a funeral procession approaching, pull over and get out of the way. Wait until it passes, then work your way back into traffic. I’d be angry as well if some yahoo was acting disrespectfully (which your actions were, albeit unintentionally). Always err to the side of caution. People who are participating in a funeral procession probably have enough grief to deal with without add aggravations.

  • NotCinderell May 13, 2010, 11:43 am

    I don’t usually like to play the dementia card, but anyone who considers attacking a car with a baseball bat to be an effective solution to a problem has crossed the line over to cuckoo.

  • Livvy May 13, 2010, 11:43 am

    I too, am a little unclear on what happened…the driver from the left lane drove across the other lanes to park on the right side of the road between two other cars that were pulled over? Seems like there really wasn’t much else to do…
    Regardless, practically speaking, it isn’t always possible to stop outright for a caravan – it’s also dangerous in some ways, unless you have police at each intersection, etc., since you’re essentially hoping that drivers will notice that there’s a procession…and cars aren’t always well marked, forget to put on lights, etc. PLUS, so many people have no idea about etiquette in very common situations, I’d wonder what the percentage would be who know about this less-common courtesy.
    In any case, psychotic to think of reacting violently to a perceived gaffe, in any case. (Though I might have understood such a reaction for the surprise-I’m-stealing-your-wedding woman of a few days ago.)

  • JJ Fad May 13, 2010, 11:52 am

    @SammyHammy: That’s exactly what they did is get out of the way. Unless they cut someone in the procession off to move over, they did the RIGHT thing. They were not rude or disrespectful, unintentionally or otherwise.

  • Gloria Shiner May 13, 2010, 11:54 am

    Well, Sammy, I think you made some unwarranted assumptions. It doesn’t sound to me like the baseball bat-wielding bat wa in the funeral procession. She pulled the bat out after the procession was already past. So if she was in it, she was disrespectful.

    Also, most people in a funeral procession are in a state of grief and probably aren’t looking for additional sources of “aggravation”.

    I’m not clear what the poster actually did (where the empty spot was), but I disagree that they were disrespectful. Etiquette does not require all traffic on the road to come to a standstill any time there is a funeral procession.

  • AJ May 13, 2010, 11:56 am

    How were they supposed to know what to do? They didn’t cover funeral processions when I was in driver’s ed. I had no idea about this bit of etiquette until a few years ago when my (then) boyfriend informed me, and he said it was “bad luck” to interrupt a funeral procession, not a matter of respect. I find it incredibly irritating when people are looked down upon for naiveté. They didn’t intentionally do anything disrespectful. They assessed the situation and tried to follow suit to the best of their ability. I think they did just fine.

    And, if it had been me, Bat Lady would have had the police called on her. Psychopaths like that need to be put in their place. Whether or not I saw it, no one threatens me with a weapon and gets away with it. That was an outrageous reaction for something she had no business in, in the first place.

  • Amava May 13, 2010, 12:03 pm

    Causing a kerfuffle during a funeral procession by yelling at a stranger, is much more disrespectful to the deceased & the berieved and interruptive than driving during a funeral procession.
    There was absolutely no excuse for this woman’s actions.

    If the tradition is that all traffic stops when a funeral procession passes by (not that I know of this tradition, it is the first time I hear of it, but I’m foreign), fair enough, but you can only do what is possible and stop in a spot that is safe. You can’t just magically make your car disappear or have a parking spot appear, can you? :s I just don’t really understand how this tradition works, practically.

  • Thea May 13, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Sammy, they did exactly what you ‘advised’. They pulled out of the way asap, but had to basically “cut” into the right lane to do it (beacuse they couldn’t go anywhere else safely).

    It sounds like the woman in the story wasn’t paying attention to traffic around her and rather than realizing that the car she saw pull up behind her was coming from the immediately left, she assumed it was coming from further behind and trying to ‘outrun’ or ‘cut off’ the procession.

  • julia May 13, 2010, 12:32 pm

    @SammyHammy – I’m confused, they *did* pull over and get out of the way, didn’t they?

    This is actually the first I’ve heard of there being an obligation to get out of the way of a funeral procession. I would never have cut into or across one, of course, but did not know one is supposed to avoid being in front of them, as well. Interesting.

  • Nic May 13, 2010, 12:46 pm

    SammyHammy, if they did pull over into the next lane to left the procession pass, how was that disrespectful?

  • Raccoon Princess May 13, 2010, 1:51 pm

    That woman was bat crackers and WAY too interested in someone else’s business.

  • Jen May 13, 2010, 2:37 pm

    I’m totally confused. Why would it be necessary to pull over for a funeral procession? I’m, obviously, missing something because I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  • Penguinity May 13, 2010, 2:44 pm


    The way I read the post, I think the LW did pull over and get out of the way. Can you explain what the LW did that was disrespectful?

  • kero May 13, 2010, 3:13 pm

    Aren’t there police officers that clear the way for the procession? Usually in my city we hear the sirens and see cops on motorcycles clearing way and directing traffic so a path is cleared in time. At the end of the procession is another officer that briefly makes sure everything is okay and traffic resumes.
    Next time, just stop driving altogether? If it looks like there is enough room on the next lane for the procession to drive through, you don’t have to pull over just stay put…or stop right next to a pulled car instead of finding a space. Or at least, that is what I and other cars do and nobody seemed upset by that.

    That lady is crazy and you were not in the wrong. It’s 1) none of her business, 2) she obviously did not recognize your efforts to get out of the way, and 3) omg, a baseball bat?! she was that upset?!

  • cathy May 13, 2010, 3:38 pm

    The OP pretty clearly indicated that is exactly what they did – pulled over as soon as possible and parked. Had they not been parked, the lady would have had a hard time pounding on their car and yelling at them.
    I have had to do the same thing when I am in the left lane – zip over as fast as possible and find 2 cars parked far enough apart I can get off the road between them. There’s nothing else you can do short of joining the funeral procession – which would be REALLY rude!

  • Caitlin May 13, 2010, 3:58 pm

    Sammyhammy: I disagree with you that the OP’s actions were disrespectful. To this day I had never even heard of pulling over for a funeral procession, and in fact have watched at my bus stop a funeral procession pass by without traffic stopping. I’m glad I now know that it is a form of etiquette to do so, but what I’d like to know is where this story took place.

  • Simone May 13, 2010, 4:23 pm

    I have to say I’ve never heard of completely pulling over for a funeral procession either. Where I come from you GIVE WAY to a funeral procession, so much so that when my Grandmother’s funeral procession had to cross a busy 4 lane road the traffic came to a standstill until we were all across. And if you are on the footpath you stop and remove your hat until they are past. But provided they have adequate room to drive to where they are going you do not need to actually pull over.

    But if I were in your country and followed my rules instead of yours, I certainly don’t think I deserve to be beaten for my ignorance!

  • DirtyWeasel May 13, 2010, 4:37 pm

    SammyHammy: I find your use of the word ‘Yahoo’ in conjunction with the OP very disrespectful and unnecessary as it implies that she is a ‘brute’ and ‘uncivilized’. Frankly, I think that the lady banging on her window was a ‘yahoo’ rather than the other way around. The OP did everything that she could in order to safely get out of the way of the funeral procession which shows that she understands the etiquette of allowing a funeral procession to pass as a sign of respect. As Amava has pointed out, it’s much more disrespectful to the mourners and deceased to yell at a stranger, threaten violence with a baseball bat and basically cause a kerfuffle.

  • Annie May 13, 2010, 4:59 pm

    The LW did just fine. It was the bat wielding woman who was in the wrong.

    Where I’m from, you don’t have to pull over for the funeral procession; you just have to let them pass (meaning they have the right of way for red lights, stop signs, etc., etc.) and not cut into the procession. (It’s the law, too.) I’ve never seen anyone pull over for a funeral procession.

  • kim_n21 May 13, 2010, 5:03 pm


    In some places the police don’t necessarily provide an escort if the procession is fairly small. Or you have to pay extra for it. Last funeral procession I was a part of had less than 10 cars, including the hearse (no limo), and was going to a cemetery about 45 minutes away across several towns. Since it was pretty difficult to get lost and all the drivers knew where they were going (it was all family- the funeral was in February and it was horrifically cold, so there weren’t many people going to the graveside, given the weather and the length of the drive), we decided to forgo the escort and put the money towards more food for the wake.

  • LDC May 13, 2010, 5:10 pm

    I don’t think the LW was disrespectful at all and did what they could under the circumstances. However, I wonder, did they mean they waited for the entire processional to go by? I don’t know about other places, but where I grew up, you pulled over only for the hearse and family car to pass by, then continued on. Of course, this is if the funeral is in your opposite lane…you’d certainly not jump into the line of cars if they are heading in your direction!

  • Tara May 13, 2010, 6:49 pm

    I think it’s a southern thing, everyone stopping for a funeral procession. I’ve only ever seen it in Arkansas. Everywhere else, people just obey the law, which is that a funeral procession has right-of-way, meaning you’re going to be stuck at that green light through a full cycle while it continues on through the red. It’s not disrespectful to continue on with your life as normal just because someone you don’t know has died. That lady was crazy.

  • Mom May 13, 2010, 7:19 pm

    You do what you can do – without risky behavior. I’ve watched an entire procession ignore a stop sign and pull from a one lane road into a three-lane, without benefit of horns or flashers, in the name of ‘respect for the dead’. One of them almost killed me.

    Sometimes, common sense makes more sense then the ‘etiquette rule’, especially when several tons of metal are involved.

  • M. May 13, 2010, 7:24 pm

    “Bat crackers” is my new choice of euphemism for mental illness. Thank you, Raccoon Princess.

  • Harry May 13, 2010, 7:25 pm

    I can remember my parents pulling over to the side of the road when a funeral procession was
    passing by, but that was 40 years ago. I have not seen this for years and years.

    Depending on the roadway, it’s simply too dangerous to attempt this now.

  • LtPowers May 13, 2010, 8:46 pm

    It is *not* the law in all jurisdictions that funeral processions have the right-of-way. My state, New York, for instance, has no such law as far as I can tell. Apparently a bill was introduced in 2009 to make it law that funeral processions have right-of-way, but I can find no evidence of it being passed.

  • jenna May 13, 2010, 8:47 pm

    I’ve heard of stopping for a procession but did not realize it was “necessary” or “expected” like pulling aside for an ambulance or fire truck, when you *have to* get out of the way.

    I second the others re: SammyHammy. How could the writer have pulled over more quickly? From the left lane it’s not only dangerous, it’s basically impossible.

    If I were one of the mourners, I don’t think someone who fails to pull over immediately would be at the top of my list of things to worry about.

  • Babs May 13, 2010, 8:58 pm

    You pay for the police escort. It depends on how much the family wants to spend, but very often, it’s just the funeral home leading the way. They usually have flags on the lead car, and everyone has their lights on. It is respectful to pull over, or at least give a funeral procession the right of way. The OP did what they could at the moment. It isn’t always possible to get over, and at least they tried.

    I’m from Miami, where rude people actually try and get in between the cars with a police escort so they can avoid the traffic lights! But, I was recently visiting in Tennessee, when all of a sudden my brother-in-law pulled over to the side of the road, along with many other cars on the highway – in respect for a procession going in the OPPOSITE direction on a divided highway! Now, that’s respect. Some people get out of their cars and put their hands over their hearts. It was really touching. It seems to be a regional thing how people react to the procession.

  • Susu in AZ May 13, 2010, 10:10 pm

    It must be a western thing too as the folks around here pretty much pull over for a funeral procession.
    I’m with Kero, omg a baseball bat!
    I wonder if the lady was pissed because she was late for the first pitch?

  • Mary May 13, 2010, 11:24 pm

    “Where I’m from, you don’t have to pull over for the funeral procession; you just have to let them pass (meaning they have the right of way for red lights, stop signs, etc., etc.) and not cut into the procession. (It’s the law, too.) I’ve never seen anyone pull over for a funeral procession.”

    This is exactly what I have seen. You never pull over, but you yield to them if they are going through intersections so everyone sticks together. You only have to pull over for emergency vehicles.

  • NKKingston May 14, 2010, 4:53 am

    I thught at first they’d pulled into slow moving traffic in the inside lane and kept going, albiet very slowly, but I think other posters are right and they cut across to the outside lane to park. Which, well… what else should they have done? Slammed on the brakes and hoped everyone behind them had already done the same?

    The only funeral processions I’ve ever seen in the UK were military or political. I’m not sure even the police get them. Certainly at the funerals I’ve been to most people drove to the funeral home/church and met there, so there was no procession. Despite being in the close-family car at both funerals I attended, I don’t think we even drove that close to the hearse. No one stopped or anything for us (thanks to the appalling traffic congestion in this country, doing so would probably result in more deaths…). The only ‘citizen’ ones I know of have been when local gypsy kings have died. The police normally close parts of the town and ask shops and pubs to close, since literally hundreds of people will turn up and the wakes get very rowdy. The one where my parents lived there were also worries about succession, while where I live now everyone was panicking because the death was related to a recent shooting. There’s nothing like putting several hundred already upset people in one place to ensure a fight will break out, let alone when the known factions hate each other already.

  • SammyHammy May 14, 2010, 7:43 am

    Perhaps I wasn’t envisioning the scene correctly.

  • Anon May 14, 2010, 8:14 am

    I live in the north, and the funeral processions here follow the laws just like everyone else. There is no pulling over and if they light is red they must stop. The law is for everyone’s safety and it would be a pity if someone else died because the procession ignored the traffic laws. It is sad that someone has passed away and they have my sincerest condolances, but that does not put anyone above the law.

    The only real concession made is that the procession is not forced to follow the minimum speed limit, but they ususally continue at a reasonable speed (going 55 on highways and 25-35 on city roads.)

  • Jay May 14, 2010, 9:27 am

    How odd. Where I live funeral processions do not have the right of way, nor do they have permission to drive right through a red light. Other drivers do try to pull over as best they can, but that is not always possible on our very congested streets and freeways. Why would they be allowed to travel through a red light? Good lord, that would cause an instant accident if it was permitted here.

    That aside. Its a shame no one got a photograph of the lady yielding the baseball bat. If she got that angry over such a minor thing, I’ll be my bottom dollar she’s gone of her topper and done some serious damage with that bat elsewhere.

  • Elizabeth May 14, 2010, 11:29 am

    Perhaps it is a southern thing, I don’t really know. I have lived all my life in the South, and everywhere I’ve lived it has been customary to pull to the side of the road for funeral processions (much like for ambulances and firetrucks) and for funeral processions to have the right of way, so as to be able to stay together to get to the cemetary together. The way to identify the funeral procession is that all the cars in the slow moving line will have their headlights on. The only time I’ve seen any difficulty ensue was during a procession while it was raining, but the driver waiting at the light finally caught on when the line of cars going through the intersection just kept on going, and we may’ve had on our flashers, too. The exception I’ve seen to this deference for funeral processions is for, of course interstates, but even then I think everyone gives the procession as much space as is possible. And then too, for divided highways, only the side of the highway that the procession is actually on will pull over. Really, I think the issue is one of placing others before ourselves, something we are all called to do.

  • Casey May 14, 2010, 12:19 pm

    Sometimes etiquette gets in the way of common sense. If pulling over is going to cause confusion on the road it’s best to stay put. Good manners is a poor excuse when an ambulance needs to be called.

    I live in a one stop light town. We don’t generally pull over for a procession but we try to stay out of the way and it’s generally understood that if the light turns red in the middle of the procession that they will continue through so they aren’t split up. This is also done for weddings and the last day of school when the seniors meet up at certain spot and drive together to school.

  • Michele May 14, 2010, 1:29 pm

    Something similar happened to me. My mother was driving, my grandmother was in the passenger seat, and I was in the back. My mother realized she was in the wrong lane to get were we were going (We saw our destination was about 20 feet away, on the other side of the road) so she signaled and changed lanes. Cars started beeping at her. Then this guy swung his car out from behind us, roared up next to our car, and SCREAMED, into my 82 year old grandmother’s face, “It’s a funeral procession, you F*&^%% A&*&^%!” As we drove away I looked back and I could see little stickers on all of their windshields, but when my mother made the manouever, we didn’t see them. Apparently she cut into the line of cars, not deliberately, of course. But who made the bigger faux pas? No question in my mind. I will be generous and assume the man was under extreme stress and grief – because who could look at an elderly woman and scream at her like that (he pulled up on the passenger side)

  • magicdomino May 14, 2010, 4:48 pm

    I Googled state traffic laws regarding funeral processions and came up with this:


    Most states allow funeral processions to have the right of way through intersections, and some specifically include traffic lights. Also, most states require something to show that it is indeed a funeral procession: flags, headlights, emergency flashers, special lights on the lead car, or all of the above. Nothing about traffic pulling over or stopping.

    I must say that with the invention of day running lights, it is difficult to recognize a funeral procession with only headlights. Occasionally there are processions on the highway to Arlington Cemetary, but if you’re concentrating on the traffic, you might not notice the hearse in front.

  • Brenda May 14, 2010, 5:51 pm

    I accidentally pulled into a funeral procession, but it was because most of the cars did not have the stickers on them. I saw about five cars with the stickers, then several cars behind it stretching out for some distance. This was a country road, only one lane in each direction, and since the cars were not marked and were widely spaced out, I made the assumption that they were waiting to pass the funeral procession at a better spot, or turn off the road. Oh, was I wrong. But as soon as I realized what was going on, I pulled onto a side street and continued on my way.

    One thing I do remember from driver’s training manual issued by the DMV was that if an ambulance, police car, etc. was approaching behind you with siren and/or lights, and if you were in the left lane, you were to pull over to the left. It would be too dangerous and difficult on a multi-lane road for everyone to try to change lanes and then pull over to the right. The idea is to get out of the way, in the most expeditious way possible, which it sounds like the OP did.

  • kidsis May 14, 2010, 6:53 pm

    In Oklahoma, a processional will typically have a police escort in the town where the funeral is held. that will go to the city limits (although, it may go all the way to the cemetery if it is just outside of town). there is typically another escort if the cemetery is in another town. That escort picks up at city limits. Since there is a police escort with flashing lights, the processional usually has right-of-way and people will pull over as they would for any other time there are emergency vehicles involved.

  • YoungAnon May 14, 2010, 9:13 pm

    I have to admit, I’ve never heard of this practice (in the UK). I’ve looked it up and it appears to be an American etiquette.

    But, having attended both my father’s and grandfather’s funerals, I can attest that the mourners will not be thinking about the traffic. There are far more important things running through their minds.

  • Caitlin May 15, 2010, 1:56 am


    That is just terrible.

  • sam May 15, 2010, 2:33 am

    I have never heard of or witnessed this tradition; it actually seems a tad absurd. I live in a large metropolitan city, and funeral processions shouldn’t be interfered with, but they certainly have to obey traffic signals and interrupting traffic flow with everyone pulling over would cause chaos.

    The only person wrong in this scenario is the nut job with the baseball bat.

  • admin May 15, 2010, 4:54 am

    When I attended a funeral in December 2007, there was a police car escort from the church to the cemetery. The processional was lead by a police car, then the hearse then the limo with the immediate family followed by the rest of the mourners. Police stopped traffic at intersections, including ones with traffic lights, to allow all the cars in the caravan to go through. If you were one of the mourners, you turned your car headlights on. In the more rural areas, people are often buried in family plots on family land so it is not uncommon to see small signs placed by the road by the funeral directors indicating that a funeral is in progress on that particular road.

  • Tina May 15, 2010, 9:27 am

    When my best friend died of colon cancer at the age of 39 my SIL and me were in the funeral procession. We just happened to be the first car to proceed after the left turn signal had gone red (there were still a lot of cars in the procession behind us) This young kid who was on his way to college (we assume it was the road to the junior college) he started beeping at us and pointing at the red arrow, we beeped back at him pointing to the funeral sticker. Keep in mind we had out lights on, the flashers on and the sticker. The poor kid had no clue. We can just imagine him going to class and complaining about the crazy ladies who ran the light. I hope someone straightened him out. Obviously funeral law is not emphasized enough in drivers ed. It did give us a good laugh on a day I sorely needed it.

    On a side note, I have been to many funerals here in the midwest. Years ago you just turned on your lights, then it was lights and a funeral sticker. Now it’s lights the sticker and hazard lights. I still think a lot of young people have no clue to the proper etiquette, considering the laws vary from state to state it’s really a shame that drivers ed does not do more to let drivers know what to do when the see a funeral procession.

  • Patty May 15, 2010, 9:31 am

    I live up north and I see them here every so often, but have never been a part of one. I did attend 2 funerals last year in the mid-west and both funeral processionals were given the right of way. We went through red lights an stop signs. And people pulled over for us on roads and highways.

  • PrincessSimmi May 16, 2010, 9:38 pm

    Ok, well, since I haven’t had my two cents’ worth yet, I have this to say:

    1. Has anyone actually thought of the Funeral Procession being directly behind her car? Then getting out of the way would be polite and not involve cutting into the procession.

    2. You should have called the police on that woman, that’s ridiculous behaviour for someone on the roads. It smacks of “You are on MY road, you’re wasting MY precious time, and I’m going to show you how ANGRY I am that you DARE WASTE MY TIME!” People like that should have their licences revoked – she’ll try it with a police officer or gangster next and end up in big trouble.

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