Minnesota has specific laws governing emergency vehicle lighting such as: what constitutes an emergency vehicle, the color of lights an emergency vehicle should display, and where those lights must be on the vehicle. These laws also extend to volunteer vehicles that are first responders. This article will explain each emergency vehicle and how Minnesota statues dictate the emergency lights be displayed.
What Constitutes an Emergency Vehicle in Minnesota?
According to Minnesota statute 169.011 Minnesota defines emergency vehicles as:
- Law Enforcement - vehicles that are publicly or privately owned to handle police work under an agreement with the local authority.
- Fire Department - vehicles approved and in use by a fire department.
- EMS (Emergency Medical Services) - vehicles performing ambulance services on land whether the vehicle is publicly or privately owned with a municipality or public corporation. Vehicles must be approved by the chief of police for that municipality.
- Volunteer Rescue Teams - vehicles approved under Law 1959, chapter 53 that are used in order to preserve life or property in an emergency.
Law Enforcement and Police Lights
Minnesota law mandates in statute 169.67 that law enforcement vehicles sound a siren and display at least one red light in the front of the vehicle when in use. In addition, law enforcement vehicles may use flashing blue lights in the back of the vehicle and/or mounted on the passenger side as ordered by Minnesota statute 169.64 subd. 4(b). The flashing police lights must be seen by other drivers from no less than 500 feet away under normal night conditions according to 169.59. It must be noted in Minnesota, there are unmarked patrol cars without a police decal on the vehicle. These cars are authorized by the Commissioner of Public Safety and are primarily used by district investigators, crime units, administrative supervisors, as well as State Capitol Troopers. These vehicles must be properly lighted (red light in front and blue light in the back and/or on passenger side) and have a siren because they can make arrests and respond to emergencies as well.
Fire Truck Lights
Fire Department vehicles fall under Minnesota statute 169.011 and must use a siren and red flashing lights in the front as per statute 169.59. The front flashing lights should be at the same height. One to two strobe or rotating beacon lights may be used both on the front and rear of the vehicle. The fire truck lights may be red, amber colored, or a shade in between. These warning lights must be seen at night from 500 feet away under normal night conditions. Volunteer firefighters must apply for a permit from the Commissioner of Public Safety and equip one non-flashing, three-inch red lamp on their vehicles which can only be lighted upon a response to an emergency.
EMS (Emergency Medical Services)
Ambulances may use red flashing lights under the same guidelines as police cars and fire trucks for Minnesota. Under statute 169.59 these vehicles must use front flashing lights that are evenly spaced apart along with one or two strobe lights fastened on the rear of the vehicle. The lights may be red, amber colored, or a shade in between. These warning lights must be seen at night by other drivers from 500 feet away. Ambulances must also have a siren to warn other drivers. Certified volunteer ambulance drivers may obtain a permit from the Commissioner of Public Safety and use their privately owned vehicles once approved. Their vehicles must have a red lamp in the front which must adhere to the specifications ordered by the Commissioner according to Minnesota statute 169.58 subd. 3.
Tow Truck Lights
Tow Trucks fall under the emergency vehicle category in Minnesota and carry the same weight under the law as an ambulance or fire truck. A tow truck must have flashing red and amber lights fastened on the highest point of the truck so it can be seen from 500 feet away. The flashing red and amber lights must be flashing when the tow truck is engaged in emergency services as per statute 168B.16
Construction Vehicle Lights
Under Minnesota law, any construction vehicle performing work-related services around passing traffic must have proper lighting. Like tow trucks, construction vehicles must have flashing lights mounted on the vehicle so a warning light can be seen at all times. This light must be seen from a height of 3.5 feet and from a 60-foot radius so that the construction equipment is highly visible in the work zone. These lights should be flashing when the construction equipment is in use whether it is day or night.
Utility Vehicle Lights
Utility vehicles and equipment in Minnesota are similar to construction vehicles, however utility equipment can choose whether to use flashing amber lights on their trucks and vehicles. Under statute 169.64 types of service vehicle include: farm tractors, self-propelled farm equipment, rural mail carrier vehicles, and funeral home vehicles. Snow plows in Minnesota may use a blue flashing light also under statute 169.64 subd.4
Pilot Vehicle Lights
Minnesota statute 299d.085 states that a pilot or escort vehicle must use one flashing yellow or amber light and be fastened on top of the vehicle so it is easily seen 360 degrees in the surrounding traffic. The bulbs may be flashing or oscillating, or a strobe beacon variety.
Security Vehicle Lights
WARNING LIGHTS. These vehicles may use flashing white, amber, or red lights as a warning to other drivers. One or two strobe lights or beacon may be used in the front or rear of the vehicle.
If you are a first responder and need a special permit to use a flashing red light on your vehicle, an application can be found here. If you have further questions about which flashing lights you may use in Minnesota, you can call the Minnesota State Highway Patrol Office at (651) 201-7100.
For more information about what lights may be available to you, we suggest calling your State Highway Patrol office at: 651-201-7100
*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.