September 26, 2018

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More education needed for safer funeral processions, police say

A Winnipeg Police Service traffic official says more education is needed about the rules governing funeral processions.

Insp. Gord Spado of the police service's traffic division said the law doesn't give a funeral procession a "carte blanche right of way," and that drivers in a procession must slow or stop as necessary for safety's sake before proceeding through an intersection.

"We do believe that education is required, as many people do not know the rules around funeral processions," he said Tuesday.

The provincial Highway Traffic Act and a city bylaw regarding required vehicle lighting for funeral processions should likely be changed, he added.

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A Winnipeg Police Service traffic official says more education is needed about the rules governing funeral processions.

Insp. Gord Spado of the police service's traffic division said the law doesn't give a funeral procession a "carte blanche right of way," and that drivers in a procession must slow or stop as necessary for safety's sake before proceeding through an intersection.

"We do believe that education is required, as many people do not know the rules around funeral processions," he said Tuesday.

The provincial Highway Traffic Act and a city bylaw regarding required vehicle lighting for funeral processions should likely be changed, he added.

The rules say that vehicles in a procession should have their headlights on, although all modern vehicles are required to have daytime running lights.

"It is often difficult in daylight to tell the difference between daytime running lights and headlamps (as required by the legislation)," Spado said in an email. "Four-way flashers, I believe, have become the norm, but are not required under either (city or provincial) law."

In Manitoba, many lead cars in the funeral procession are equipped with a flashing purple light and the other vehicles in the procession have flags on their windows. (Martha Irvine / The Associated Press Files)

In Manitoba, many lead cars in the funeral procession are equipped with a flashing purple light and the other vehicles in the procession have flags on their windows. (Martha Irvine / The Associated Press Files)

The police service was asked to respond Monday to a Free Press story about a lay minister who called for an end to traditional funeral processions in Winnipeg after his car was T-boned recently at the intersection of Inkster Boulevard and McPhillips Street.

"When you're in (a) funeral procession, you're putting your life at risk," said Thomas Novak, an Oblate brother who presides at two or three funerals and interments a week as a lay minister. His Ford Focus was totalled in the crash.

He estimated that the driver of the lead car in the procession was travelling 40 km/h at the time.

The city bylaw says that the driver of every vehicle in a funeral procession shall slow down or stop "as may be necessary for safety" upon approaching a traffic light or stop sign — and that the driver of each of the other vehicles in the procession shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles (see box).

"There is no legislation around speeds of processions," Spado noted.

Thomas Novak’s Ford Focus (right) was totaled when it was T-boned at intersection during a funeral procession Monday at Inkster Boulevard and McPhillips Street. (Submitted)</p>

Thomas Novak’s Ford Focus (right) was totaled when it was T-boned at intersection during a funeral procession Monday at Inkster Boulevard and McPhillips Street. (Submitted)

In January 2010, two people were sent to hospital with minor injuries after a vehicle turned into a funeral procession in Winnipeg.

At that time, a city police patrol sergeant called the provincial Highway Traffic Act provisions "antiquated and a danger."

What the law says

A review of the provincial Highway Traffic Act and Winnipeg's traffic bylaws rules around funeral processions.

A review of the provincial Highway Traffic Act and Winnipeg's traffic bylaws rules around funeral processions.

Highway Traffic Act: Vehicles in funeral processions

117(4) The driver of a motor vehicle in a funeral procession shall, in so far as practicable, drive his vehicle on the extreme right-hand side of the roadway.

117(5) Notwithstanding anything in this Part, the council of a municipality may, by by-law, provide that, in the case of a funeral procession indicated as such by the headlamps of all the motor vehicles therein being lighted, or in such other manner as may be prescribed in the by-law,

(a) if the driver of the leading vehicle therein has complied with sections 85 and 88, the driver of each of the other vehicles therein, upon approaching

(i) a traffic control signal showing a red traffic control light or a "stop" or "arrêt" signal, or

(ii) a "stop" or "arrêt" sign,

shall cause the vehicle to slow down or stop as may be necessary for safety, but may then proceed cautiously past the traffic control signal or "stop" or "arrêt" sign; and

(b) after passing the traffic control signal or "stop" or "arrêt" sign, the driver of each of the other vehicles in the procession shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles upon the highway at the intersection or place where the signal or sign is situated.

Winnipeg Traffic By-law 1573/77, section 36

Funeral Processions. The driver of every vehicle in a funeral procession indicated as such by the headlamps of all motor vehicles therein being lighted upon approaching a traffic control signal showing a red traffic control light, or a stop sign, shall cause the vehicle to slow down or stop as may be necessary for safety, but may then proceed cautiously past the traffic control signal or stop sign, the driver of each of the other vehicles in the procession shall have the right-of-way over all other vehicles upon the highway at the intersection or place where the signal or stop sign is situated.

The city's bylaw largely mirrors the wording of the Act.

At one time, police escorted funeral service processions, but they no longer guard intersections unless the funeral is a high-profile event expected to attract an unusually large number of people.

The patrol sergeant said funeral processions pose a safety risk if the vehicles are not nose-to-tail. "In many cases your sightline is next to nothing until you're at that intersection," he told the Free Press in 2010.

A provincial spokesman said while the government is not currently reviewing the section of the Act pertaining to funeral processions, it "will listen to stakeholders and individuals who raise concerns."

Funeral processions "are not a concern" for the Manitoba RCMP, a spokesman said Monday.

"Our primary concern are collisions where impaired driving, excessive speed and distracted driving are factors," Robert Cyrenne said in an email.

"These factors are responsible for most of the collisions on Manitoba roads and highways. Also very concerning is the fact that 55 per cent of fatal collisions this year involved unbelted occupants."

Police use to escort funeral service processions, but they no longer guard intersections unless the funeral is a high-profile event expected to attract an unusually large number of people. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press Files)

Police use to escort funeral service processions, but they no longer guard intersections unless the funeral is a high-profile event expected to attract an unusually large number of people. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press Files)

The president of the Manitoba Funeral Service Association said it does not have a specific policy regarding funeral processions.

"Typically, the expectation is to drive 10 to 20 kilometres (per hour) below the posted speed limit, so vehicles can keep up and stay close and people can see that this is a unified procession — and the vehicles are easily identified," Michael Gibbens said.

He said the problem is a lack of awareness, especially among city drivers. He sugested the issue could be covered in the training requirements for new drivers.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Read full biography

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Read full biography

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