A motorcade is a procession of vehicles that travels as a group, typically carrying Very Important Persons (VIPs) and their support staffs. Since the people are often high profile individuals, the procession is typically accompanied with law enforcement support and other protections which are designed to keep the occupants safe. Examples include inaugural processions, visits by heads of state to various regions, and funeral processions. In order for a motorcade to run smoothly, a great deal of coordination is involved.
The president of the United States famously uses motorcades to get around. A presidential motorcade can include a large number of cars, because in addition to the president and his or her spouse, the procession may include local politicians, photographers, and other guests of the President. The major members of the party typically travel in armored vehicles, and they are accompanied by law enforcement on motorcycles and in cars.
Details of the presidential motorcade are deliberately withheld from the public out of concern for his or her safety. Observers, however, can clearly see that it typically includes several armored vehicles, an ambulance, a counterassault team, press vans, vehicles to carry the Secret Service, and various law enforcement vehicles. A hazardous materials team usually travels with the group to look out for potential problems, along with an official who can change the route, if necessary. It is not uncommon to use dummy vehicles in a motorcade.
Depending on the type of motorcade, a road may be closed off to allow the cars to pass. This practice is common with heads of state, since the procession may be considered a major event, and people may want to turn out to watch it. Travel is also safer when the vehicles use a closed road; the cars can stick together more easily, and a lack of passing cars reduces the risk of disruptions.
In the case of a motorcade that travels on open roads, as often happens with a procession of cars traveling to a funeral, vehicles usually identify themselves with flags or window tags. Anyone who has ever noticed a long line of cars with tags reading "funeral" in their windows, has passed a motorcade. In cities where a visiting head of state plans to travel this way, citizens may be informed that they can stand in specific locations to view the passing cars, although the precise route is not always disclosed.