SENATE DOCKET, NO. 1869 FILED ON: 1/14/2009
SENATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No. 1884
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Steven A. Baddour
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying bill:
An Act Relative to Funeral Processions .
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand and Nine
An Act Relative to Funeral
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. Chapter 85 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 14A and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 14A. (a) For purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:-
“Funeral directing”, the business, practice or profession, as commonly practiced, of (a) directing or supervising funerals or providing funeral service; (b) handling or encasing, or providing services for handling or encasing, dead human bodies, and preparation of dead human bodies, otherwise than by embalming, for burial or disposal; (c) providing embalming services; (d) providing transportation, interment and disinterment of dead human bodies; and (e) maintaining an establishment so located, constructed and equipped as to permit the decent and sanitary handling of dead human bodies with suitable equipment in such establishment for such handling.
“Funeral director”, any person engaged, or holding himself out as engaged, in the business, practice or profession of funeral directing.
“Funeral escort”, a person or entity that provides vehicle escort services for funeral processions including, but not limited to, law enforcement personnel.
“Funeral escort vehicle”, a vehicle that operated by a funeral escort.
“Funeral home”, a “licensed funeral establishment” as defined in regulations of the board of registration in embalming and funeral directing.
“Funeral lead vehicle”, any motor vehicle, including a funeral hearse, leading and facilitating the movement of a funeral procession.
“Funeral procession”, 2 or more vehicles accompanying the body or the cremated remains of a deceased person, in the daylight hours, including a funeral lead vehicle or a funeral escort vehicle.
(b)(1) Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession must exercise due care while driving in a funeral procession. A vehicle in a funeral procession shall follow the preceding vehicle in the funeral procession as closely as is practicable and safe. Any general law, ordinance or regulation requiring that motor vehicles be operated to allow sufficient space between them to enable another vehicle to enter and occupy that space without danger shall not be applicable to vehicles in a funeral procession.
(2) The operator of a motor vehicle in a funeral procession may not drive the vehicle at a speed greater than 55 miles per hour on a highway where the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour or more or greater than 5 miles per hour below the posted speed limit on a street or road that is not a highway.
(3) A vehicle being operated in any funeral procession must have its headlights and taillights illuminated.
(4) The turn signals must be flashing simultaneously as warning lights on a vehicle that is the first vehicle in a funeral procession and on a vehicle which the operator has reason to believe is the last vehicle in the funeral procession.
(c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, pedestrians and operators of all vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which is part of a funeral procession being led by a funeral escort vehicle or a funeral lead vehicle.
(2) Whenever the funeral escort vehicle or funeral lead vehicle in a funeral procession lawfully enters an intersection, either by reason of a traffic control device or at the direction of law enforcement personnel, the remaining vehicles in the funeral procession may continue to follow the funeral lead vehicle through the intersection despite any traffic control device, general law or ordinance to the contrary relative to right-of-way, if the operator of each vehicle exercises reasonable care toward other vehicles and any pedestrians on the roadway.
(3) Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, an operator of a funeral escort vehicle may, while exercising due care, direct operators of other vehicles in a funeral procession to proceed through an intersection or to make turns or other movements despite any traffic control device signal to the contrary. Funeral escort vehicles may exceed the speed limit by 10 miles per hour when overtaking the funeral procession in order to arrive at the next intersection ahead of the procession so as to direct the procession through.
(4) A funeral procession shall have the right-of-way at intersections regardless of traffic control devices subject to the following conditions and exceptions:
( i ) operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall yield the right-of-way to an approaching emergency vehicle emitting an audible siren or flashing emergency lights;
(ii) operators of vehicles in a funeral procession shall yield the right-of-way when directed to do so by law enforcement personnel; and
(iii) operators of vehicles in a funeral procession must exercise due care when participating in a funeral procession.
(d) The operator of a vehicle that is not part of a funeral procession shall not:
(1) drive between the vehicles forming a funeral procession while the vehicles are in motion except when authorized to do so by law enforcement personnel or when driving an authorized emergency vehicle emitting an audible siren or flashing emergency lights;
(2) join a funeral procession to secure the right-of-way as granted by subsection (c);
(3) pass a funeral procession on a multiple lane highway on the funeral procession’s right side unless the funeral procession is in the farthest left lane; or
(4) enter an intersection, even if the operator is facing a green traffic control signal when a funeral procession is proceeding through a red traffic control signal at the intersection as permitted under subsection (c), unless the operator may do so without crossing the path of the funeral procession. If the red signal changes to green while the funeral procession is within the intersection, the operator of the vehicle facing the green may proceed, subject to the right-of-way of a vehicle participating in a funeral procession.
(5 ) A vehicle owned by a funeral home establishment or a licensed or registered certified funeral director, and operated by a funeral director, an employee or an independent contractor of a funeral home may have mounted thereon flashing, rotating or oscillating purple/violet, amber and or clear lights. Such vehicle may display a flashing, rotating or oscillating red light in the opposite direction in which the vehicle is proceeding. Such lights shall only be displayed when such owner or operator is proceeding in a funeral procession, or responding to a fatality on behalf of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office and at no other time. A permit for the use of said lights will not be required from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
(e)(1) Liability for any death, personal injury or property damage suffered by any person in a funeral procession shall not be imposed upon the funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort or their employees or agents if the funeral procession was operating in accordance with subsections (b) to (d), inclusive, or would have been operating in such compliance but for the failure of the operator of one or more vehicles in the funeral procession to exercise due care.
(2) Liability for any death, personal injury or property damage that results from, is caused by, or arises out of any action or inaction of any operator of a vehicle in a funeral procession under the control of a funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort or their employees or agents shall not be imposed on such funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort or their employees or agents if the funeral procession was operating in accordance with subsections (b) to (d), inclusive, or would have been operating in such compliance but for the operator of one or more vehicles in the funeral procession not exercising due care.
(3) This subsection shall not apply if the death, personal injury, or property damage allegedly arose from a negligent act or omission in the operation of a vehicle by the funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort or their employees or agents. The operator of a vehicle in a funeral procession shall not be deemed to be an agent of the funeral director, funeral home, or funeral escort unless such operator is an employee of the funeral director, funeral home, or funeral escort and is acting in the course of his employment, or unless the operator was retained as an independent contractor of the funeral director, funeral home or funeral escort and is performing services therefore.
(f) This section shall not create a new cause of action or substantive legal rights against any funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort or their employees or agents. This section shall not affect any immunities from civil liability or defenses established by general law or any immunity from civil liabilities or defense available at common law to which a funeral director, funeral home, funeral escort, or their employees or agents may be entitled.
(g) A funeral procession of not more than 10 vehicles shall have the right, except on Sundays and legal holidays, to use any parkway, boulevard or other public way to the same extent and subject to the same regulations and restrictions as vehicles commonly known as pleasure vehicles.