I've been a part of a handful of very small funeral processions, in a very small town called Windom, Minnesota. In a town of fewer than 2,000 people, we didn't have to worry much about other cars or traffic, so I never really thought about other cars on the road needing to be somewhere.

Living in an area a lot bigger than that has me wondering, do we have to stop for funeral processions? Can we go around them? Do funeral processions have precedent over all of the other cars on the roadway, even in an emergency situation?

Unsplash - Patrick Quinn
Unsplash - Patrick Quinn

Like most laws, funeral procession traffic laws vary from state to state. According to MWL-Law, Kansas for example has no state laws governing funeral processions. Minnesota generally requires all vehicles, except emergency vehicles, to yield the right of way to a funeral procession, when all its cars are in a close formation with headlights lit.

Iowa Funeral Procession Law

According to MWL-Law, Iowa law is not specific regarding intersections. Iowa does provide that drivers of vehicles in the procession cannot be charged with violating traffic rules and regulations with regard to traffic devices and signals unless the vehicle is being operated recklessly.

The lead vehicles must use flashing emergency lights, lit headlights, and identifying flags. As far as other cars on the road, all vehicles must yield the right-of-way to the procession, unless it's an emergency vehicle.

This doesn't exactly answer one of my questions. You don't necessarily need an emergency vehicle for all emergency situations. Maybe your wife is going into labor and you're trying to get her to the hospital. Most people don't call an ambulance to take their wife to the hospital under these circumstances and I'd consider getting her to the hospital an emergency.

The way I read the law, the word "must" doesn't leave a lot of room for interpretation. "All vehicles must yield the right of way" means if you're trying to get to the hospital, you might want to take a different route if possible. Otherwise, it appears you could get some kind of ticket.

With that said... I'd be willing to bet if your wife is going into labor you could explain why you needed to go around a funeral procession and whoever stopped you would tell you to drive safe and send you on your way but I'm just guessing.

The reality of life is that people will die. It's sad when it happens to someone you love and frightening for some people to think about. If you need to go around a funeral procession, it better be a pretty big emergency, and no, running late to something isn't an emergency. Show respect to the funeral procession and just wait for it to pass through. If you don't, you could get some kind of ticket and you'll surely piss off a lot of grieving people.

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