The funeral procession is a tradition that’s rich with history. Dating back to ancient Egypt, it’s a way friends and families pay respects as the deceased is taken to their final resting place.
But this old tradition could be coming to an end.
A Dying Tradition
Traditionally, in many communities, police escorts have provided their services to follow the procession and improve traffic safety. But those days appear to be coming to an end. Just last month, the community of Summerville, South Carolina was debating about ending police escorts for area funerals.
The Summerville Police Chief told reporters that they just don’t have the resources to continue providing an escort service. And without enough officers to participate in the escort, the rate of accidents tends to increase.
The community of Summerville isn’t the only area thinking about ending funeral escorts. Police departments in Missouri, Texas, and Georgia also have ended or are in talks to end their escort services.
As police departments pull back their services, funeral directors are thinking about ending funeral processions altogether. Texas funeral director David Ives told KXAN-TV news that processions would be out of the question. Families would simply have to be dismissed at the chapel and meet up later at the cemetery.
A Dangerous Drive
The changes to police escorts and funeral trends seem to reflect our changing attitudes about processions around the country and their growing danger. In a 2011 crash, five of six people killed in a single funeral procession accident were police officers guiding the processions. A total of 16 people were sent to the hospital that day.
Each year, more motorists are hurt or killed in wrecks involving funeral processions. A lot of it has to do with a lack of understanding of funeral procession laws and etiquette, as well as a lack of patience by other drivers.
A New Type of Escort?
As police departments start rethinking their role in funeral processions, another type of escort is becoming popular — private funeral escort services.
These private security companies are popping up to replace the traditional escort. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that these cars look like traditional police — using more than $8,000 in lights to mimic a police car. These private escorts can cost a family anywhere from $250-$350, depending on the size of the procession.
While some funeral directors are happy to see such a service, others have shown concerns about the lack of training these private escort companies may have when directing a funeral procession.
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