A Motorcycle Police Wife Speaks Out About Funeral Processions
I normally post a delicious recipe or a fun craft for you to make, but today I have something very different on my mind. Some of you know that I am the wife of a police officer. I have been a police wife for 23 years now. I rarely talk about that here on the blog. It’s a part of my life that I try to keep private from the online world. However, today is a bit different. You know that saying “Be the change we want to see in the world” I am hoping this will.
Early this week, our police family lost one of their own in a motorcycle accident while escorting a funeral procession. His name was Amir Abdul-Khaliq. He was my husband’s shift-mate. He was a 17-year veteran of the force, a U.S. Marine veteran, a father of five and a friend.
This tragic accident happened on the 4th of September. I vividly remember the text I received and I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing and head to the hospital. I just knew I needed to be there for Amir’s family, for our police family, and for my husband.
I vaguely remember the next four days, but I do remember saying lots of lots of prayers. My husband and his other shift-mates spent every free minute they had at the hospital, taking watch over their friend.
Our dear friend had succumbed to injuries he sustained while doing a funeral escort!
This accident hits pretty close to home for our family. It wasn’t that long ago that my husband was in a very similar accident while escorting a funeral procession as part of his police duties. I don’t think the public understands how incredibly dangerous these tasks really are!
This is the reason for my post today. I want to talk to you about the dangers and I also want to raise some awareness in the process. I’ve asked a few friends what they would do in a certain situation involving a procession and I am getting mixed answers.
I feel the need to help spread the word about funeral possessions and possibly save a life with the knowledge that I am passing on to you. Sometimes explaining how an accident happened can certainly help you to remember why we have rules in place or do things a certain way.
What to Do When You See A Funeral Procession in Progress in Texas:
Respect the Funeral Procession
I almost can’t believe I have to list this as my first bit of public information. Please, respect the funeral procession. You must yield and grant the funeral procession the right of way.
Wait at traffic lights, stop signs or wait at driveways until the entire procession has passed. Failure to do so could get you a fail to yield right of way ticket, which is a class c misdemeanor here in the state of Texas.
- Wait for a funeral procession to pass.
- Don’t enter an active funeral procession.
- Don’t cut through an active funeral procession even if there was a gap that was left for you. This one is extremely important and I will explain more below.
I really think this message should be relayed to our younger generation. So if you are a parent, please take a few minutes to have a conversation about the rules of a funeral procession. Mention common courtesy protocol in matters such as this.
What happened to the days of taking a minute or two to pause and show a bit of respect as a funeral procession goes by? When did we become so busy that we can take a minute or two to allow a grieving family to get from the funeral home to the burial site in a timely manner while showing a bit of respect? These are the questions that I have been asking myself lately.
I was on the phone with a funeral director yesterday for two hours discussing this respect issue. Yes, it’s an issue. It’s a society issue!
This funeral director has told me that he has been honked at while conducting an active funeral procession! He has been flipped the bird for holding up traffic! He has had cars speed around the procession to jump in front of the funeral cars and at dangerously high rates of speed. All of these actions were done, just to get around the procession!
It’s unbelievable some of the things he has experienced. Imagine if that happened to you when you are on your way to bury a loved one.
Unfortunately, as a police family, we’ve been to many funerals but you can bet my own children have been taught to have respect, from a very young age. I can promise you that our family will always respect your family during a funeral procession.
Pay Attention While Driving
I’ve listed this as the second most important thing to do while driving because I feel as though most accidents can be avoided. It certainly could have been avoided in my husband’s accident. I feel as though we are way too distracted while driving and some people do not even notice that there is a funeral procession in progress.
When you see a line of cars with their headlights on, their hazard lights flashing and following in a line with motorcycle police driving in front and/or at the side of the cars in the line, know that it is a funeral procession and show some respect!
What to Do When You Are In a Funeral Procession:
The purpose of a funeral procession is to get the family and friends of the deceased to the burial site as a single unit in a timely manner.
It is a planned route with a police escort to help the procession get from one destination to the other as a single unit. Funeral homes will instruct you to turn on your headlights and hazard lights to signal other drivers that you are part of the funeral procession before you leave.
- Turn your headlights and hazard lights on to allow other drivers to know you are part of the funeral procession.
- Funeral processions have the right of way. You should follow the lead vehicle in the procession.
- Keep your place in line.
- Don’t allow gaps in the funeral procession.
- Don’t wave another vehicle through a funeral procession.
- Don’t exit an active funeral procession.
Let me explain the outline above and why these guidelines are very important.
Decide to Go to the Burial Before You Enter the Funeral Procession
Before you enter a funeral procession make sure you plan to attend the burial service. Don’t decide at the last minute to leave an active funeral procession. This could be very dangerous for the officers that are advancing forward at higher rates of speed to cover the intersections that the funeral procession must pass through.
Don’t Leave a Gap in the Procession
Funeral processions will typically go at a lower rate of speed, but the police officers have to double that speed when closing intersections along the way. If you leave a gap in the procession, another driver may think it is okay to enter and not even realize it’s a funeral procession.
When we stop at a red light and have a drive on the side with cars that want to enter the road, it is common courtesy and expected for you to allow those drivers into the roadway. This is something you don’t want to do when you are driving in a funeral procession!
I almost feel like a jerk by not allowing them in the roadway, but it’s a must. Our officers are in danger of being hit every time a vehicle enters or exits a funeral procession!
Don’t Wave Someone Through the Funeral Procession
This is the one that I said was one of the most important rules. The funeral procession has the right of way. Don’t leave a gap and don’t wave another driver in or across the procession. Wait until the procession has fully passed before you enter the roadway.
My husband was in this exact accident. There was a lady that was waved through the procession and took the opening while my husband was advancing to the next intersection. She did not see him or she didn’t care to look because she thought all the cars were stopped. She t-boned him and he flipped over her vehicle, went airborne and then landed on the opposite side of her vehicle in the street. Although he did survive the accident, he still deals with pain every day from it.
When I asked multiple people what would they do if there was a gap or if you were waved through, I received mixed answers. It is extremely important not to have traffic going in and out from the procession line. This is what causes accidents. This is the part that is extremely dangerous and could result in the death of a police officer, a pedestrian, or even the offending driver.
Funeral Procession Procedure Problems
I think it is extremely important to have a discussion about the rules and laws of the road when accidents happen. I am all for change if it leads to a positive outcome and less risk. With that said, I have a few opinions and questions of my own from the view point of a police wife.
My first thought was, the funeral homes need to take a bit more responsibility to educate the drivers before a funeral procession. Being part of a funeral procession is not something that we do in our day to day routine. Therefore, it is important for the funeral director to make a quick speech at the end of the service to go over the rules.
This thought led me to a 2 hour phone conversation with a local funeral director. I’ve never heard the funeral directors point of view before. It was very eye opening!
I’ve learned that in the past some funeral directors would put magnetic flags on the top of vehicles to allow the public to know who is in an active procession. This didn’t go so well because not all vehicles are made of metal and sometimes the flags would fly off of vehicles that were driving at a rate of speed over 30 to 35 mph.
The next idea was a paper sticker on each vehicle. This seemed to be a good idea but does not work well in the rain.
We have to remember that funeral homes are in business to make a profit. Doing an escort on a busy roadway during rush hour allows for extra marketing for the funeral home business. I do believe the police officers doing the escort do have the last say when it comes to the safest route. I personally know that most funeral homes do look out for the safety of this process, but it is something to keep in mind.
Here are a couple more things to ponder……
Should police officers be doing these escorts on less busy roads? Should they be doing them only during certain hours?
Do we have tough enough laws for people who fail to yield right away for these funeral processions? If the laws are tougher, will people actually pay attention?
Most funeral escorts are done on an off-duty motorcycle. These motorcycles have lights that have been custom installed for safety. The reason it is done this way is to keep the cost low for the family who is paying for this service. Using an off-duty motorcycle brings many questions to my mind.
Can the public see the unmarked unit with active lights as well as they can see a marked police motorcycle? What color is the bike? Is it a color that is easily noticed?
The use of sirens. Sirens are extremely important. I do believe we have a city ordinance in Austin that prohibits our officers from using sirens on their personal bikes.
Do we use the right amount of officers in a funeral procession or any escort for that matter? I personally believe the more officers you have, the safer the escort will be.
Escorts are dangerous. Is there enough training for providing the escort?
Lastly, some people have questioned why we have funeral escorts. I can see that this is a service we need to provide. It’s a service that allows funerals to run in a timely manner. It is a very structured process that must go smoothly because of the time constraints. Just imagine it’s your turn to bury a loved one and a very important person didn’t make it to the burial service because they ended up in traffic or even worse, at the wrong cemetery!
Obviously, this is extremely close to my heart. It has taken me two days to write this post with many, many tears along the way. I have so many questions and little answers. In the meantime, my husband just left the house to do another funeral escort.