Several days ago a gentleman was driving in a funeral possession for his great-grandmother. He was carrying several family members and was a pall-bearer. During the possession he ran a red light trying to keep up and was subsequently stopped by Alexandria Police. He was issued a ticket for running the red light even if he was in a possession. His argument was that he had the little orange hangar on his rear view mirror along with his hazards on. The funeral was not escorted by police and instead by the funeral homes escort vehicle. The family filed a complaint and the matter was investigated but instantly they did find that the man did break the law. According to police if a procession is led by anything other than a police vehicle in Virginia, the procession must follow all traffic laws.
There has been a major uproar that stopping someone during a funeral possession is not right but what is right? If we look at the reason for red-light laws it is to prevent an accident in an intersection and allow the flow of traffic. If on-coming traffic had begun to enter the intersection the man would have cause an accident doing more damage to the vehicle he struck, family members in his car and disrupting traffic. I have seen these funeral escort vehicles before and they act as if they are above traffic laws at times blocking intersections and running against the flow of traffic. I believe he though he could go through the intersection because of the lead driver. It is the police’s job to protect citizens and enforce the laws. If you want to contest a ticket and give your reasons then stand before the judge, the police did the right thing to prevent an accident.
So what could have been done differently then? First off, the funeral home could request an escort. I have seen them all the time around Alexandria but I am sure there are probably restrictions such as length of the possession, distance, and where the cemetery they are heading to is located. If that is not an option then notifying the drivers with in the possession with directions and a notice of the laws for possessions within the state. I have been apart of several possessions and I have regularly seen people stopping at a red-light because it is the law. They can easily catch up to the possession since they are traveling at a slower speed or meeting everyone at the cemetery. I also feel that some of these escort drivers really need to be examined and properly taught how to drive since they are not police and don’t have the right to block or prevent the flow of traffic.
I personally think the Alexandria Police Department did the right thing to protect it’s citizens and upholding the laws in place. I am sure there will be a review and maybe a change in how the police will stop a person within a possession. I highly doubt we will see any law changes because of the unsafe nature of running through a red-light.