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A state law has changed how funeral processions will operate in the county.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile realized the need for a change after reading an opinion from state Attorney General Henry McMaster.
In his opinion, McMaster said a funeral procession can disregard traffic signals and signs only when an officer is stationed in that intersection. If no officer is stationed there, then the procession must observe all traffic lights and signs.
Faile said it has been customary for his deputies to lead processions through red lights and intersections with stop signs, but that process must end.
“We were doing this before and we probably shouldn’t have been doing it,” Faile said. “It’s clear we can’t do it anymore. We can’t violate the law.”
Faile learned of the changes as part of his office’s accreditation process. All state law enforcement regulations were reviewed at the time.
“With these new rules, we have to make sure we stop at all intersections,” he said. “We want the public to be aware that we are not going to stop doing processions, but we have to follow the law.”
In a letter he recently sent to all of the county’s funeral homes, Faile asked employees to help enforce the change in processions. He worried that continuing with the process could leave the sheriff’s office, individual deputies and funeral homes open to lawsuits if something goes wrong.
Faile referenced a recent case where the S.C. Department of Transportation was found negligent in an accident involving a DOT employee who stopped in the middle of the road to pick up an animal carcass.
“I cannot in good conscience expose my deputies and the good citizens of Lancaster County to such liability,” Faile said in the letter.
He said it would be difficult to allow funeral processions to drive through traffic signals because of limited manpower to post deputies at intersections when they pass through.
“We just don’t have the manpower to do that,” he said. “We will still do processions, but people will see a change when they do do it.”
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at email@example.com or at (803) 416-8416