Why Do Cops Use Red Interior Lights?

Posted by Extreme Tactical Dynamics on Dec 12th 2019

Police cars come with a range of lights. They have a police light bar on the roof to alert oncoming traffic and pedestrians of their presence. They use flashing lights to draw attention to themselves and make it clear where they are coming from (and going to). Some undercover cars have more subtle interior lighting bars that aren’t visible until they are required. 

But while lots of articles look at why police use red and blue LED emergency vehicle lights or why they use particular flashing patterns when they are on the move, it’s not often that a blog post looks at the mysterious red dome light inside the car’s interior. No we aren't talking about cheap emergency visor lights, we are talking about the interior dome light.

Given how carefully designed all police lights are, there is definitely a reason behind putting red interior lights inside police vehicles. But what is really interesting is that this isn’t a standard and many officers end up creating a DIY red light by switching out the clear dome for a red one or even spray painting the interior of their white dome light. 

So, let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of red interior lighting. 

What are the Benefits of Red Lighting?

The main benefit of using red lights instead of white light or blue light is that red light will not impact an officer’s night vision as much as other colors. This is really important for emergency responders because they will need to go from inactive to active in a split second. 

Police officers don’t have time to wait for their eyes to adjust to darkness so using a red interior light saves them crucial seconds. It takes around 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to darkness and, for police officers and other emergency responders, that is 30 minutes too long. 

A red light is usually just enough to see by. This means that if a police officer stops another vehicle and requests to see a driver's license or another form of ID, they can use the red light to check it without ruining their night vision. Police officers can also be sure that they won’t be suddenly blind when they step out of their car, reducing the risk to themselves. 

The red lights are also significantly less conspicuous than white lights. This means that if a police officer needs to have the light on to do some work, they are not lit up like a Christmas tree for everyone to see them, particularly anyone who might see a police officer and want to do some harm. Red lights also mean that police officers can still see out of their interior windows easily and see what is happening around them. 

Finally, as red lighting is less harsh than white, it has a calming effect and means that officers don’t strain their eyes at night. The night shift is already problematic as sleeping patterns are difficult to regulate but given that we know the harm white and blue light, in particular, can do, red light may help to mitigate some of the issues that come with staying up all night. 

How Do Officers DIY Interior Red Police Lights?

Red interior lights are not a standard issue. Different police forces use different lights and different vehicles have different requirements too. This means that while some police vehicles get red interior lighting, some will get the standard white lights that do nothing for night vision. 

Police officers are well known for being resourceful so it’s no surprise that those who find themselves without a red light are quite happy to modify and work with what they’ve got. Many will replace the clear dome with a red dome but various techniques including taping the light and using spray paint are known. 

The Best Option

Of course, our police shouldn’t really be forced to fork out for their own red lights, especially since they are so essential in preserving their night vision and ability to do their job effectively. The best option is to install a light with both a white and a red LED bulb. Officers can use the white light when they need to be able to see clearly and switch to the red light when they want to preserve their night vision. 

With the correct red interior light, police officers can retain their night vision, see out, remain reasonably inconspicuous and read any papers they need. Being able to switch from white light to red in an instant should be a standard for all police vehicles and given that the technology is already here, it’s a wonder why so many still have to go without such basic equipment. At Extreme Tactical Dynamics we have plenty of police light bars for sale. Check out the articles below to learn more about them. We also have police sirens and more emergency equipment.

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