LITTLE ROCK In today's fast-paced world, pulling off to the side of the road for a funeral procession may seem like an inconvenience to some, but others believe it's a courtesy.
Gary Anderson, funeral director for Roller-McNutt Funeral Homes in Conway, Greenbrier and Clinton, said this courtesy only takes a few moments.
"The customary thing was to pull over to the right and stop, but on today's interstatesand four lanes, it is just not practical or safe sometimes," Anderson said.
He said the average funeral procession is about 20 cars in length. The longest funeral procession he has been in was one for a firefighter in the Helena area. It was about four miles long. When drivers are able to pull to the side of the road for an oncoming funeral procession, the wait isn't that long.
"Depending on the length of the procession, once the family and a few cars have passed you can go on," Anderson said.
Lt. Danny Moody, public information officer for the Conway Police Department, said drivers should consider safety first and foremost.
"You might have a road that has an non-improved shoulder, or if you have several people who have pulled over and the funeral procession has passed, it can be trickey for those cars to re-enter the roadway," Moody said.
Moody said the Conway Police Department does not escort funerals unless it the funeral for a law enforcement officer.
Although they are solemn occasions, Anderson said funeral processions try not to interfere with the flow of traffic.
"If we're going out on the highway, like the interstate or from Conway to Damascus, we're going to drive about 45-50 mph so it's not impeding traffic," Anderson said.
Anderson has been working in the funeral industry since 1982.
"There was a time when if a driver would immediately recognize oncoming cars with their headlights on during the day as a funeral procession. Now so many cars' lights stay on from the time they start their ignition, we've installed wigwags and strobe lights beside our headlights," Anderson said.
Wigwags are sets of headlights that take turns flashing, such as the ones on emergency response vehicles.
For people who are driving in a funeral procession, Anderson recommends the cars should closely follow each other so that other drivers don't try to cut in between.
"Every once in a while we get these people who just can't wait and are cutting in and out of the procession," Anderson said.
He said giving the funeral procession the right of way doesn't take long and shows respect to the bereaved.
"To you it may be an inconvenience to pull over and wait, but for the family, it is a real loss and a life-changing event they're going through," Anderson said.
River Valley Ozark, Pages 67, 68 on 05/29/2008