Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cremation is also a big factor...

Escorted funeral processions are fading away, and local government budget cuts won't help.

The funeral cortege, a staple of mourning in the USA for generations, is rolling up against modern realities. Concerns about staffing, cost and officer safety forced the change in Gulfport, Smith says. Police were overwhelmed, sometimes working six funerals a day, and some funerals required as many as eight of the city's 190 sworn officers — 4% of the force.
"In some cases, we would have an entire section without protection," he says. A five-vehicle procession can be handled by a single officer.
There are also liability concerns. Courts in Tennessee and Florida have found that police and funeral homes that provide escorts for funeral processions can be held liable for crashes that occur during the processions.
In most states, the lead vehicle in a funeral procession must obey traffic signals and stop signs, but other vehicles are not required to do so. Still, funeralgoers all over the USA are getting cited by red-light cameras for running red lights while a part of a funeral procession. The Georgia House of Representatives is considering a law that would require camera companies to include on citations a box saying the vehicle owner was part of a funeral procession when the violation occurred.
"There are cases where you legally run a red light. The most prominent is a funeral procession," says Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Cassville Republican.
In some places, the practice of motorists respectfully pulling over to the side of the road as a funeral procession passed, has passed on, too. In several instances in recent months — including in Memphis and Houston — funeral escorts on motorcycles have been hurt by drivers attempting to cut through processions. And each year, motorists around country are hurt or killed in wrecks involving funeral processions.
Still, some smaller communities have managed to hang on to the practice of police escorts for funerals. "We do it on a case-by-case basis," says police Sgt. Curtis Bristol of Charlotte, Mich., which has a population of about 9,000. [More]
We live a mile from a lovely cemetery, and now that I think about it, we are seeing fewer corteges as well. I know our own family experience with funerals has been widespread families are planning delayed memorial services instead of funerals after an immediate and intimate cremation. Plus many final dispositions are scatterings rather than burial.

I think one indicator of how the funeral procession is disappearing is the confusion and failure to recognize one by many motorists who pass into the midst, or honk at intersections.

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