'Hearse rage' on the rise, say funeral directors

"Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves," W H Auden declared, in the nation's most oft-repeated funeral poem. Perhaps riot gear would be the more sensible sartorial selection, because road rage against funeral cortèges is apparently on the rise.

Almost three-quarters of funeral care staff say they have seen an increase in discourteous behaviour towards funeral processions in the past five years. "The situation has got increasingly worse, with more traffic on today's roads and people's busier lifestyles," said David Collingwood, operations director for Co-operative Funeralcare.

"Road users tend to be so impatient nowadays and their main concern is to get to their end destination as quickly as possibly, regardless of other traffic."

Sarah Bolton, a funeral director in Blackburn, said she had almost been run over by cars desperate to get in front of the cortège so as not to be slowed down. "I have even witnessed schoolchildren trying to push their friends in front of the hearse," she said. Other antisocial behaviour included "cars overtaking with very loud beat music that rattles the hearse".

Natalie Lawler, a funeral director in Southport, Merseyside, said she was nearly knocked over by a motorist attempting to overtake the hearse and passing limousines in one manoeuvre. "He had been frustrated at the slow-going procession," she said.

In 2007, a bus driver interrupted a funeral in Welling, south-east London. Grieving relatives described how the horse-drawn hearse and limousines were yards away from the cemetery when the driver cut through the procession and shouted obscenities before driving his bus into the funeral director.

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