A tragic New York car accident took the life of a motorcyclist in Brooklyn recently. According to news reports, an SUV driver was traveling south and stopped for a funeral procession that was traveling east. The driver moved forward after all of the vehicles in the procession had passed, but he reportedly had a red light by that time. The motorcyclist, who reportedly had the green light, crashed into the SUV.
It is customary in many parts of the United States for drivers to yield to funeral processions. Indeed, in some states, there are laws granting funeral processions the right of way. Unfortunately, despite several bills being introduced over the past few years, New York has not passed a statewide law addressing funeral processions. Since there is a custom but no law, many drivers are left confused about what their responsibilities are.
There are no exceptions in New York traffic law allowing funeral processions to disobey traffic signals. Municipalities may, however, enact their own ordinances addressing this issue. Even with a municipal ordinance in place, liability in the event of an accident is not clear. A case from 1948 held that a driver could proceed on a green light, regardless of whether a funeral procession was passing, if there was no traffic officer regulating traffic, and the driver could proceed without unreasonably endangering another person. The court made this finding despite a municipal ordinance granting the right of way to a funeral procession.
Additionally, funeral processions often have a police escort or other police involvement. If the police are controlling traffic, other drivers are required to obey. To further complicate matters, some drivers may yield the right of way even when not legally required, either out of respect for the deceased or out of a mistaken belief the law requires them to do so.
This can leave drivers, both in and out of the procession, uncertain what other drivers will do. All drivers should be alert and aware of their surroundings. If drivers are able to identify funeral processions, they should be more cautious around them. Certainly, the presence of a police escort and a hearse are indications of a funeral procession, but drivers may approach the procession after those vehicles have already passed. Vehicles in a funeral procession are generally told to turn on their lights, follow closely behind the lead vehicle, and drive at a relatively slow speed. They are often given flags or decals to place on the vehicle to indicate they are part of a funeral procession.
Drivers should pay special attention to funeral processions due to the possibility that they may not follow traffic signals. If a funeral procession does pass, the driver must still obey traffic signals. If the driver runs a red light, he or she may be liable for the resulting injuries.
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, a knowledgeable New York car accident attorney can help you get compensated for your injuries. Call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 to discuss your case.
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