Los Angeles (Orange County), California

Funeral Processions in Los Angeles

No less than a California Highway Patrol spokesman in the San Fernando Valley summed it up: Funeral processions are dangerous.

The claim is that on any given day in Los Angeles County, many funeral processions roll along streets and freeways. One cemetery, Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, lies on 1,500 acres that accommodate 50 burials a day. Most, of course, reach their destinations without incident.

Participants in funeral procesions brave traffic jams, road works, and -- certainly rarely, given the numbers -- gang attacks.

Sometimes, police are the problem. Stories sift out about officers citing funeral processions for tying up freeway ramps. Routine procession procedure in one jurisdiction isn't recognized in another. Ventura County spokesmen deny it, but some escort services say processions just aren't allowed in the county so when the county line is reached, escort riders wave goodbye, wishing mourners all the best on reaching the intended cemetery.

But the biggest headache in LA is traffic.

"Fifteen years ago in LA there was a rush hour," said Rich King of California Motor Escort Service in Lawndale. "It was 7 a.m. to 9:30 or 10 and in the afternoon, 3 to 6 or 7. Now it's all day with no break, and it's worse around noon."

Motor escorts face mindless motorists who fail to see front-and-rear markings on cars making up processions, or who don't associate headlights with a funeral procession. Because everyone is LA is in a hurry all the time. The result can be high-speed collisions as escort riders leapfrogging from procession rear to front slam into impatiently driven vehicles.

Perhaps it isn't any wonder that legislation regarding funeral processions is once again being drafted for the LA area. A pilot program covering only San Francisco and Los Angeles counties sunsetted, leaving the California Legislature to try again.