Driving by a funeral procession can be a somber affair, but it can also be dangerous one. Many drivers in the U.S. are unaware of the laws and customs surrounding funeral processions in their state.

The most trouble comes at intersections. Some states mandate that the lead vehicle in the procession must obey traffic signals at intersections, stopping at a red light or stop sign. But once the lead vehicle proceeds through the intersection, all the cars behind may follow without stopping — even if the light turns red in the midst of the procession. Consider the entire procession as one single unit. Many states, however, have no laws regarding funeral processions, so you’ve got to figure it out on your own.

Rules of the road

So what should you do when you encounter a funeral procession? First of all, it would be wise to know what your state has legislated. But if you don’t know, or are driving in another state, it’s best to follow these suggestions, courtesy of the geniuses at HowStuffWorks:

  • When you come across a funeral procession, you should always yield. Cars in the procession should have their headlights on, and you’ll often find a flag on the hood as well.
  • Be on the lookout for the final car in the procession — it often has multiple flags, plus flashing hazard lights.
  • If the lead car goes through a traffic light or stop sign, the entire procession is typically allowed to follow.
  • Don’t be that person who cuts in the middle of a funeral procession.
  • Driving on a highway? Don’t pass a funeral procession on the right.

Some drivers may wish to pull over entirely to allow the funeral procession to pass, but no state laws require you to do this. While it may be a tradition in places, such a move may be hazardous if the road doesn’t have a proper shoulder.

You can see what your state mandates here.