Tennessee has strict laws regarding emergency vehicle lights, including which color lights each vehicle may display as well as which type of lights. Listed below are the specific requirements for several types of emergency vehicles along with explanations and the state statutes for each of them.
According to state statute 55-9-402 , authorized law enforcement vehicles may display steady-burning red, white, and blue lights in combination. In addition, they may also display flashing red, white, and blue police lights in combination.
Blue flashing emergency vehicle lights or blue flashing emergency lights in combination with red flashing emergency lights may only be lawfully utilized by full-time uniformed law enforcement officers of local, city, county or state governments. However, exceptions per state statute 5-9-414 , include: commissioned members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, constables who retain law enforcement powers and duties, auxiliary or reserve officers while on duty and driving sheriff’s department vehicles, and specially commissioned police officers employed by private colleges.
Fire Truck Lights
Fire trucks are authorized to use red and white lights, as noted in state statute 55-9-402 , which states that an emergency vehicle used in firefighting, including ambulances, emergency vehicles used in firefighting that are owned and operated by the division of forestry, firefighting vehicles, rescue vehicles, privately owned vehicles of regular or volunteer firefighters certified in state statute 55-9-201 or other emergency vehicles used in firefighting owned, operated, or subsidized by the governing body of any county or municipality, may display flashing red or white lights or flashing red and white lights in combination. These vehicles may display steady-burning red lights, as well.
Volunteer Fire Fighter Lights
Volunteer firefighter vehicles are allowed to use the same lights as fire trucks are permitted to use, as indicated in the section above, according to state statute 55-9-402 . This includes the use of flashing red or white lights, flashing red and white lights, or steady-burning red lights. Additionally, any emergency rescue vehicle owned, titled and operated by a state chartered rescue squad, a member of the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads, privately owned vehicles of regular or volunteer firefighters certified in state statute 55-9-201 , and marked with lettering at least three inches (3”) in size and displayed on the left and right sides of the vehicle designating it from an “Emergency Rescue Vehicle” is also authorized to be lighted in any of the following manners: a red or red/white visibar type with public address system, a red or red/white oscillating type light, or blinking red or red/white lights, front and rear.
Ambulances may display flashing red or white lights or flashing red and white lights in combination according to state statute 55-9-402 . Also, any ambulance or vehicle equipped to provide emergency medical services properly licensed as required in the state and displaying the proper markings are authorized to be lighted in one or more of the following manners: a red or red/white visibar type with public address system, a red or red/white oscillating type light, and blinking red or red/white lights, front or rear.
Tow Truck Lights
Recovery vehicles designed for towing a disabled vehicle, as per state statute 55-8-132, while in the performance of duties involved with towing an abandoned, immobile, disabled, or unattended motor vehicle, are authorized to display flashing, oscillating, strobe lights, a revolving system, or any combination of white and amber lights. According to the statute, these authorized light/lights may be displayed on any location on the vehicle or equipment, other than within the headlight assembly or grill area of the vehicle, in the tail light lamp or stoplight area, or factory installed emergency flasher and backup light area, and may only be used while engaged in towing a vehicle.
Construction Vehicle Lights
Construction vehicle lights, per state statute 55-9-402, , are authorized to display any combination of white and amber lights, whether strobe, flashing, or oscillating, and may only be used while working in a construction zone.
Utility Vehicle Lights
A highway maintenance or utility vehicle or recovery vehicle may display flashing white or amber lights or any combination of flashing white and amber lights pursuant to state statute 55-9-402 , which indicates notwithstanding any law to the contrary, nothing in this section shall prohibit a highway maintenance or utility vehicle, or any other type vehicle or equipment participating, in any fashion, with highway or utility construction, maintenance, or inspection, from operating a white, amber, or white and amber light system on any location on the vehicle or equipment while the vehicle or equipment is parked upon, entering or leaving any highway or utility construction, maintenance, repair or inspection site.
“Utility” is defined as “any person, municipality, county, metropolitan government, cooperative, board, commission district, or any entity created or authorized by public act, private act, or general law to provide electricity, natural gas, water, waste water services, telephone service, or any combination thereof, for sale to consumers in any particular service area.”Cooperative” is defined as “any cooperative providing utility services including, but not limited to, electric and/or telephone services.”
Pilot Vehicle Lights
State statute 55-9-402 states that pilot vehicles traveling at lower speeds may use amber-colored rotating or strobe lights, which must have a horizontal placement, be visible for at least 500 feet and at 360 degrees.
Security Vehicle Lights
Vehicles that are owned or leased to licensed public or private security services (but not personally owned vehicles of security guards) may display flashing lights in any color other than red, white, or blue, or in any combination of colors other than red white, or blue, provided that the flashing lights authorized for security services vehicles shall not be operated or illuminated while the vehicle is on a public road, in motion or stationary, and shall only be illuminated when patrolling a shopping center or mall parking lot or other private premises or if stopped in a hazardous location for the purposes of warning, as indicated in state statute 55-9-402.
For more information about what lights may be available to you, we suggest calling your State Highway Patrol office at: 615-741-3181
*Please note that these numbers are what we are currently able to find and the numbers may have changed since this listing.
Disclaimer: The emergency vehicle light state statute guide was created by Extreme Tactical Dynamics as a guide and reference. We make no claim to the accuracy or validity of this guide. This guide was written to the best of our knowledge and has been provided to our customers as a courtesy ONLY! The information in this guide is our interpretation of the law as we have read it. We cannot be held responsible for any errors as this is only our interpretation of the law and the laws are constantly changing. We cannot be held liable or responsible for any errors and recommend that our customers refer to their local authorities to confirm the particular statue that governs their use of emergency vehicle lights.