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Funeral escorts asking drivers to be cautious after accidents, multiple close calls

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indiana state law requires drivers to give the right of way to a funeral procession. However, some funeral escorts in Indianapolis say that doesn’t always happen.

"Once I get out in the intersection here I'm trying to shut down the northbound traffic," said funeral escort Shane Skeen, while pointing to the video on his laptop. "I can see this car not stopping, that’s why I didn't turn my siren off."

The video was taken last month in downtown Indy. It shows a car flying through an intersection, just seconds before the procession makes its way through.

"Just because the light was green, they didn’t want to stop," Skeen said. "That could’ve been horrible.”

Skeen has worked as a rider for Indianapolis Funeral Escort Service for the past nine months. Skeen says in that time alone, he’s already witnessed one of his partners get hit.

“It's really scary," Skeen said. "But that’s part of the paycheck.”

The company works with 82 funeral homes and escorts nearly 200 funerals a month.

In 2018, four of their riders were hit while on the job.

One of those was the owner, Gary Harriman, who was knocked off his motorcycle and sent to the hospital.

“Just because he didn’t want to wait for a procession to pass," Harriman said about the driver that hit him. "That’s all it was.”

State law requires funeral escorts to be clearly marked, and allows them to have flashing lights to get the right of way at an intersection. The law also requires drivers to give a procession the right of way, and prohibits passing a procession on the right hand side.

“The law is there, we don’t need another one," said Harriman, who previously spent 34 years working as an IMPD officer. "Just obey the one we’ve got.”

In 2017, one of the company’s riders was hit and killed while leading a funeral procession on the near north side. The driver of the car was sentenced to three years in prison.

“It’s pretty devastating when you get that call," Harriman said. "I don’t want to do it again.”

While discussing the handful of videos he’s collected in the past month alone, Skeen said he is thankful they were all just close calls.

However, without the help from drivers, he fears next time could have a much different outcome.

“If it's a funeral procession for someone in their family, they would want the same courtesy," Skeen said. "It doesn't take us that long to get through an intersection. Just please help give us a break.”

Indianapolis Funeral Escort Service uses mainly motorcycles, and has 18 part-time riders.

Harriman says he’s starting to use off-duty police officers to help with processions.

Drivers can be fined up to $500 for disregarding the funeral procession laws.

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