The death of funeral etiquette

One in four people fails to show the proper respect to cortèges, according to survey

Kevin Rawlinson
Tuesday 18 October 2011 00:00
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The traffic is moving at a snail's pace, you can't see why, and you are frustrated. What you may not realise is that you are being held up by a hearse.

Research reveals a quarter of people are guilty of failing to show respect to funeral processions. Whether ignorant of the etiquette or simply dismissive of it, teenagers and those aged up to their mid-40s are likely to be the most ill-mannered, the poll by The Co-operative Funeralcare organisation found.

The study showed that more than 29 per cent of people aged 18 to 44 were unaware of the tradition of giving way to cortèges and more than half did not know that pedestrians would normally show respect by stopping what they were doing.

"There has been much talk since the riots this summer about attitudes and respect and we have seen a shift away from people observing funeral etiquette," said the Co-operative Funeralcare's David Collingwood. "Many people ignore a passing funeral procession and pedestrians often disrupt a cortège by using a pelican crossing."

Cortège nearby? what you should do...

...if you're driving...

The standard etiquette is to just accept it. Hearses normally drive at around 20mph, so stick to the same speed and turn off and find another route when you can. Beeping the horn and trying to overtake are not generally advised, although the latter is OK if you're on a dual carraigeway.

...if you're a pedestrian...

Stopping what you are doing is usually welcomed and the good old fashioned doffing of the cap or removing your hat altogether still goes down well but is, apparently, most common among the older generation.

...if you're travelling in the opposite direction...

There is no real issue but people often think there is. There is no expectation for people to stop or move across the road but revving the engine is frowned upon.

...if you're crossing the road...

It is appreciated if people do not cross the road in front of a funeral cortège but standing by a zebra crossing can be confusing and hearse drivers will generally stop to be sure. It's best to make it plain you are allowing the cortège to proceed by standing back.

Andrew Leverton: A passing driver once ran into my hearse

There are no set rules when a cortège is passing, and some people can get caught out. Of course, some are just downright rude. A few years ago, a driver hit my hearse as he swerved back to the right side of the road to avoid oncoming traffic. More commonly people will sit behind a cortège on a dual carriageway as they think it's disrespectful to overtake.

Some inadvertently get caught up in a cortège on a roundabout, others beep their horns because they can't see the hearse at the front and a lot of pedestrians are unsure if they should use a zebra crossing in front of a hearse. The best advice though, is to use your instinct. If in doubt, the hearse driver will tell you what to do.

Andrew Leverton is a funeral director

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