TOPEKA — Leavenworth state Rep. Jeff Pittman welcomed the presence of Patriot Guard motorcycle riders in the funeral procession of an uncle whose years of military service included deployment to Vietnam.
He said the riders accompanied the procession from the Tennessee funeral home to a national cemetery and helped to manage traffic so mourners could remain bunched together. It led Pittman to explore traffic law in terms of funeral processions, and a discovery that Kansas has no specific statute guiding motorist conduct amid these motorcades.
“I was surprised that 30 states have statutes related to and recognizing funeral possessions. Kansas does not,” Pittman said.
His proposed remedy is a House bill declaring that vehicles and pedestrians would yield the right of way to funeral processions escorted by a lead vehicle with flashing lights or featuring an escort such as the Patriot Guard. There would be a $20 fine for violators driving between or interfering with a procession.
The legislation before the House Transportation Committee would permit cities and counties to establish additional restrictions.
Leavenworth resident George Westbrook, who participates in Patriot Guard funeral escorting in Kansas, said he had a near-death experience when drivers chose not to respect the line of a procession. He said the Patriot Guard riders had been part of funeral convoys that proceeded through stop signs and lights.
“We conduct ourselves with honor and integrity,” Westbrook said. “Our goal is to honor the fallen.”
Ed Klumpp, who represents three Kansas law enforcement associations, said sheriffs and chiefs of police support House Bill 2608 because it would bring consistency across the state while preserving options for local control of funeral processions.
“Kansas has no comprehensive law governing funeral processions. This creates confusion when a funeral procession passes through numerous cities and counties while on the way to a cemetery,” said Pam Scott, executive director of the Kansas Funeral Directors Association.
The law in Missouri gives a funeral procession the right-of-way, except it must yield to emergency vehicles. Once the lead vehicle lawfully enters an intersection, all other vehicles may follow without stopping. In Nebraska and Colorado, there are no state laws governing funeral processions. Oklahoma prohibits motorists from cutting between vehicles in a procession.