PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) - The regulations governing funeral escorts are so loose, a producer from CBS 5 Investigates was able to get his vehicle permitted with no background check or emergency driver training.
As long as he is working as a funeral escort, that permit would allow him to speed, run red lights and drive in the opposite lane.
"We have the same rights and privileges to the road as any other emergency vehicle," said Brian Hawkins, who owns Central Traffic Enforcement, a funeral escort company.
Hawkins believes his industry needs more regulations.
"It's far too easy to take an everyday vehicle and turn it into an emergency vehicle," said Hawkins.
Our producer purchased emergency lights and a siren online, then bought magnetic signs that read, "Funeral Escort." The producer then made an appointment with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the agency in charge of permitting funeral escort drivers and vehicles. The deputy inspected the vehicle, took the producer's driver's license, registration and insurance, then gave the producer a permit. There was no background check or driver's test required.
"They are bound by what the law allows them to do," said Hawkins. "They are doing exactly what they are capable of doing," he said.
Mickael Sandoz knows all too well the dangers involved in being a funeral escort driver.
"I broke my neck, my back, all my ribs on my left side, my leg in four places and my jaw in four places," said Sandoz.
He was a motorcycle escort in 2011, when a woman in a car ran straight into him. Sandoz has undergone more than 30 surgeries. But because the escort company considered him a contract worker, the company refused to pay any medical expenses.
"I think it should be regulated. I think there should be an oversight committee," he said.
At this point, there is no regulating authority.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office issued a statement which reads in part:
"Arizona Revised Statue states that the Sheriff of each county is responsible for inspecting vehicles used for funeral escorts. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office inspects vehicles to verify they meet the minimum standards in accordance to Arizona Revised Statue guidelines. MCSO is not the governing agency as it pertains to laws and requirements need for certification."
This year, a bill introduced into the legislature would have transferred authority over funeral escorts from county sheriffs to the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers and created new regulations. The bill never moved out of the House Transportation Committee.