Funeral Procession Car Accidents & Liability Laws In Rhode Island

June 5, 2014

Funeral Procession Car Accidents in Rhode IslandFor those of you who believe that yielding to a funeral procession was merely an honorable thing done out of respect to the deceased and his or her survivors, are mistaken. The rules of the road, streets and highways pertaining to funeral processions in RI are clearly codified. These laws are enacted to show respect to the victim, maintain an orderly procession and to prevent RI Car Accidents as a result of the procession.

These laws were originally enacted in Rhode Island in 2008, perhaps because of the increased prevalence of collisions and deaths across the United States pertaining to processions.

These funeral car crashes can even be more tragic when the funeral was for a person who was killed in a tragic, fatal wrongful death car, motorcycle, truck or motor vehicle accident. The family and friends of the deceased are already grieving a fatality and preoccupied and now they have another injured friend or loved one to cause more stress at their most vulnerable moment.

It is, nonetheless, very disheartening that the Rhode Island legislature felt compelled to issue rules for automobiles not participating in the procession.

Isn’t this just common decency?

Perhaps, its a sign of the times that some people do not have common decency to respect the procession. But all it takes is a stoned or drunk jackass weaving in and out of the procession or an ill-advised motorist joining the procession merely to get to their intended destination faster, in order to ruin it for everyone.

And then there are distracted drivers who are too busy texting while driving or web surfing to realize that the grouping of automobiles on the road is in fact for a funeral.

These Rhode Island and Providence Plantations traffic and liability laws apparently are to prevent Providence motor vehicle collisions and ensure an orderly procession as well as preserve the dignity of the dead person.

In case people did not know what a “funeral procession” was, lawmakers in the Ocean state even went as far as defining a funeral procession as “…two (2) or more vehicles accompanying the body or the cremated remains of a deceased person, in the daylight hours, including a funeral lead vehicle or a funeral escort vehicle.” http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-52/31-52-1.HTM

Rhode Island Law clearly gives the right of way of autos, vans and suvs in the procession even if a traffic signal or stop sign indicates otherwise with certain exceptions.

Rhode Island General Law ยง 31-52-4 Funeral procession right-of-way.

“Whenever the funeral escort vehicle or funeral lead vehicle in a funeral procession lawfully enters an intersection, either by reason of a traffic control device or at the direction of law enforcement personnel, the remaining vehicles in the funeral procession may continue to follow the funeral lead vehicle through the intersection despite any traffic control devices or right-of-way provisions of state or local ordinances, provided the operator of each of the person who died.

What exactly is illegal in RI?

Motorist who are not taking part in the lineup of autos may not lawfully drive through the procession or sneakily join the procession to get the benefits of the right of way.

The vehicles in the procession must also be careful to “exercises reasonable care toward any other vehicle or pedestrian on the roadway.” http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-52/31-52-4.HTM

This “super’ right of way, of course, is not without exceptions. Vehicles in the procession must yield to ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles, but only if such vehicle are utilizing a siren, making noise or there is a visible symbol.

Motorist in the procession do not have a carte blanche to ignore lawful commands of police and emergency law enforcement personnel.

The negligence law in RI concerning processions provides some limitations for “liability for any death, personal injury or property damage “against the funeral director or personnel with certain stipulations.

Liability rules:

Generally the director and funeral corporation is not responsible for accidents for other vehicles operating negligently and causing accidents, within the procession, so long as all funeral procession laws are complied with.

According to the Chicago Tribune “The death of an Elk Grove Village woman whose car collided with a funeral procession this week was tragic but not surprising, according to experts who say such accidents are more common as a cherished tradition clashes with modern traffic hazards.” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-01-15/news/0901140736_1_funeral-procession-accidents-experts

1 dead, 7 injured in crash involving funeral procession http://wgntv.com/2013/08/06/8-injured-in-multiple-vehicle-accident/

“David Begley is recovering emotionally and physically from an accident that happened Wednesday when he was a part of a funeral procession to pay respects to his friend H. Thomas Neal. Police said around 2:30 in the afternoon 22-year-old Katelyn Eversole collided with the SUV Begley was driving at the intersection of 68/80 and the Veteran’s Outer Loop just outside of Glasgow. Begley’s SUV flipped and as a result, 69-yaer-old Delmar Lloyd was pronounced dead at the scene.’ http://www.wbko.com/home/headlines/Man-Dies-In-Barren-County-Accident-241680191.html

Carol Struebing, 82, was killed Monday when a pickup truck that was part of a funeral procession drove through a red light and slammed into a car driven by Struebing’s sister, who remained in fair condition Wednesday. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-01-15/news/0901140736_1_funeral-procession-accidents-experts

“An off-duty police officer was struck by an SUV while he was escorting a funeral procession along Highway 90 on the West Side….The accident happened around 12 p.m. Wednesday on the exit/entrance ramp at South General McMullen. A San Antonio Police Department spokesperson said the 63-year-old North East ISD police officer was stopped to allow the funeral procession to pass, when an SUV exited Highway 90, crashed into the back of a white vehicle stopped for procession, and then hit the officer on the motorcycle.” http://www.foxsanantonio.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/traffic-alert-accident-highway-90-4280.shtml

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.