Are NC drivers required to pull over for funeral processions? What state law says

Yielding to funeral processions passing by is considered by many a common courtesy in the South, but there are also laws on the books in North Carolina that govern whether you have to pull over.

State law also regulates how you should drive if you’re part of a funeral procession.

Here’s what to know about driving in or around a funeral procession in Charlotte:

What constitutes a funeral procession?

North Carolina law, general statute 20-157.1, defines a funeral procession as “two or more vehicles accompanying the remains of a deceased person, or traveling to the church, chapel, or other location at which the funeral services are to be held, in which the lead vehicle is either a State or local law enforcement vehicle, other vehicle designated by a law enforcement officer or the funeral director, or the lead vehicle displays a flashing amber or purple light, sign, pennant, flag, or other insignia furnished by a funeral home indicating a funeral procession.”

NC funeral procession laws

Under state law, anyone driving in a funeral procession should have their headlights and hazard lights on. All cars in the procession should be on the right side of the road and follow each other closely.

You should drive “at the posted minimum speed” unless traffic means you need to drive faster.

The lead vehicle in the procession is expected to comply with all traffic signals, but all vehicles in the procession can go through an intersection “without stopping” “when directed to do so by a law enforcement officer or a designee of a law enforcement officer or the funeral director, or when the lead vehicle is a law enforcement vehicle which progresses across the intersection while giving appropriate warning by light or siren.”

All drivers in the procession should “exercise reasonable care towards any other vehicle or pedestrian on the highway,” and you can’t legally join a procession just to get through an intersection.

Processions still have to “yield the right-of-way to law enforcement vehicles, fire protection vehicles, rescue vehicles, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles giving appropriate warning signals by light or siren and shall yield the right-of-way when directed to do so by a law enforcement officer.”

Not following the state’s rules is not a moving violation under the state statute.

Do you have to pull over for funeral processions in NC?

If you’re driving in the opposite direction of a funeral procession, state law says you “may yield to the funeral procession.”

“If the operator chooses to yield to the procession, the operator must do so by reducing speed, or by stopping completely off the roadway when meeting the procession or while the procession passes, so that operators of other vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction of the procession can continue to travel without leaving their lane of traffic,” the law reads.

If you’re driving in the same direction as a procession, the law says you “shall not pass or attempt to pass the funeral procession.”

The only exception is if “the highway has been marked for two or more lanes of moving traffic in the same direction of the funeral procession.”

State law also dictates that you can’t merge into or out of a funeral procession and that you can’t block a procession from going through an intersection, even if you have a green light.