By Garth A. Rattray
It was supposed to be a leisurely Saturday afternoon drive along the Mandela Highway. A friend of mine needed to talk about some problems that she was experiencing. I stuck to the left-hand (slow lane) and cruised about 60 kph. As we chatted, I noticed traffic approaching at a rapid rate of speed behind me. I found it strange that they were speeding in that lane; the fast lane was free of motor vehicles. I soon recognised flashing hazard lights and realised that it was a funeral procession led by a speeding pickup, followed by a line of vehicles following behind an equally speeding (glass-trailer-pulling) hearse.
The bed of the rickety-looking pickup was dangerously overloaded (standing room only) with 'mourners' (read 'profilers') dressed up in their dancehall best. Tight, black, see-through, mini, mesh dresses, straining at the seams (but somehow managing to magically hold together). Gaudy make-up was the order of the day. Surreal, cartoon-like bodily proportions bulged shamelessly and visible underwear lines accentuated the ridiculousness of their appearance.
The obviously irate driver began sounding his horn behind me and he never relented. Eventually, he tailgated my vehicle. I wondered what he expected me to do. I was already in the slow lane and the fast lane was devoid of any traffic. For the life of me, I could not understand why he (and the rest of the horde) didn't simply change lanes and go on their merry way to bury their dead. I wondered, why the ridiculously excessive speed and in the 'slow lane' at that. Their loved one/relative/friend/whoever was already dead and all that was left was for them to commit the body to the ground.
The group of pickup passengers began pointing and shouting at me as they hurled colourful expletives and invited me to apply vacuum with my oral cavity to various parts of their anatomy. Well ... although nauseated, I certainly did not budge and I did not increase my speed so the din of discontent rose to a crescendo (thank God for noise-reducing windows). They gave up, changed lanes and overtook my vehicle. The retinue of 'mourners' sailed by us and groups of Buttus, Crebbehs, Jing-Bangs and dibbi-dibbi Jaggabats took the opportunity to unleash even more detailed verbal abuses.
This very unpleasant experience led me to take note of other disorderly, unescorted funeral processions. Sometimes, processions have civilian outriders that go ahead of them to clear all other motorists out of the way. They even obstruct traffic to allow the procession to drive through yield signs, stop signs and even very busy traffic light intersections without the cautionary pause that emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire brigades and the police) exercise. It is not uncommon to see a screw-faced, dreadlocked (not Rastafarian) young man, on a high-performance motorbike, festooned in a three-piece suit, head-kerchief and/or hat and 'speng' glasses, ride out into the middle of a traffic light intersection, stop traffic and wave the long and ragtag, speeding funeral procession by.
Worldwide, various places have traffic laws governing funeral processions. All require that either headlights or flashing lights are left on. Some require an identifying flag on the lead car. Out of respect for the dead, all give limited right of way to funeral processions. Some allow the lead car to go through the red light, while others allow the entire 'convoy' to do so. A few places allow for a 15 mph excess while in a funeral procession.
However, being the kind of (horrendous) drivers we are, many unescorted funeral processions disregard all traffic (safety) laws and dangerously commandeer the roads. We need clarity on what our local funeral processions can and cannot do legally.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.