Emergency vehicles display and use a variety of different colored emergency vehicle lights. They may be used individually or in combination with each other. In New York State emergency lights on vehicles may be red, white, blue, green or amber. Emergency vehicle lights may flash or they may display as a solid color.
An emergency vehicle in the state of New York is defined by the New York State Statute VAT-1-101 as any vehicle in one of the following categories:
- Police department vehicles
- Fire department vehicles
- Volunteer fire fighter vehicles
- Ambulance service vehicles and county emergency medical service vehicles
- Volunteer ambulance service vehicles
- Blood delivery vehicles
When emergency vehicles are displaying any of the colored flashing or solid lights described they are authorized to:
- Proceed past a red light or stop sign
- Exceed posted speed limits
- Disregard traffic regulations with respect to turning or direction of movement
These conditions only apply if the emergency vehicle is utilizing an audible signal in conjunction with the flashing lights. Vehicles responding to emergencies for a Police Department, Sheriff Department or the New York State Troopers are not always required to use an audible siren or horn. Right-of-way is not automatically granted to an emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights and sirens. These devices are used to alert motorists and pedestrians that there are vehicles engaged in an emergency response and that these vehicles are requesting the right-of-way. It is unlawful to follow an emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing lights at a distance closer than two hundred feet. Drivers may not park or drive within one block or one thousand feet of a parked emergency vehicle while their flashing lights are in operation. When responding to emergency calls the driver of the emergency vehicle has the duty to drive with reasonable care in order to respect the safety of all other persons using the roadway.
Police Department Vehicles
Police department, Sheriff department and State Trooper vehicles in the state of New York use red, white and/or blue police lights according to New York State Statute VAT-375.41.2. Whether flashing or solid, red and white lights signify that all traffic is to stop or use caution when approaching them. Blue lights add contrast and bring greater attention to the fact that a police vehicle is presently involved in an emergency situation. The blue lights are to be rear facing only and not visible from the front of the vehicle.
Fire Department Vehicles
New York Fire Department vehicles and fire truck lights are governed by the same statute that covers Police Department vehicles with one exception. Fire Department vehicles are not allowed to utilize blue lights under Fire Department Vehicles-State Statute VAT-375.41.2.
Volunteer Fire Fighter Private Vehicles
Any vehicle owned and operated by a volunteer fire fighter in the state of New York may display one blue light on their vehicle or the vehicle of any member of the fire fighter's family provided that family member resides in the same household as the fire fighter. The blue light may be affixed to the interior of the vehicle or it may be attached to the trunk or rear tail gate of the vehicle. This blue light may only be utilized when the volunteer fire fighter is engaged in an emergency operation. A permit authorizing installation and usage of the blue lights for the purpose of responding to emergency fire scenes must be granted by the fire chief. The fire chief may also revoke this authorization. Drivers of vehicles with blue lights may not use a siren or any other audible device. See State Statute VAT-375.41.4 for more information
Ambulances-State Statute 375.41.2
Ambulances and County emergency medical service vehicles in the state of New York are allowed to use only red and white warning lights while responding to emergency calls according to State Statute 375.41.2.
Volunteer Ambulance Service
Volunteer ambulance services exist in rural parts of the state of New York. These services are owned and operated by non profit organizations in areas where full time or County emergency medical services would be unable to reach the scene of a medical emergency within a reasonable time frame and are governed by Volunteer Ambulance Service - State Statute375.41.5. Volunteer ambulance personnel may affix one green light to their vehicle. The guidelines for placement and utilization of these green lights are the same as the volunteer fire fighter guidelines. The chief officer of the non profit ambulance service must provide written authorization to all personnel permitted to use the green light. Drivers of vehicles with green lights may not use a siren or any other audible device.
Blood Delivery Vehicles are Authorized Emergency Services Vehicles
In New York blood delivery is considered an emergency service to the community. As such they are authorized to use red and white emergency lights when in the process of delivering blood.
Other Vehicles That Use Warning Lights
Tow trucks, construction vehicles and utility vehicles are regulated by the New York department of Motor Vehicles. All tow trucks must display one or more oscillating, flashing, revolving or rotating amber colored lights. These lights are intended to alert drivers and pedestrians of the presence of such vehicles. They do not authorize the drivers of those vehicles to disregard any traffic regulations. Utility vehicles may be operated by a gas company, an electric company or a city or county operated sanitation department. Snow removal trucks will also be equipped with flashing amber lights.
Pilot and Escort Vehicles in New York
Pilot vehicles that are used to escort trucks carrying over sized loads must use amber warning light bars. Since vehicles with extra long or extra wide loads present a potentially serious safety hazard the requirements for these lights are very specific and stringently enforced. The light bar must be at least 43 inches long but not longer than 52 inches. The light bar must be installed perpendicular to the length of the vehicle. There must be a minimum of 4 flashing or strobe lights that are visible from a distance of one thousand feet. At least two of the lights must flash at a rate of 95 flashes per minute. The other two require a minimum flash rate of 150 flashes per minute.
Shopping mall parking lots are often protected by security vehicles. These may be passenger cars or golf cart type vehicles. At the public shopping malls these vehicles use amber lights for visibility. Private malls, hotels, apartment complexes, etc. often employ private security agencies. Their vehicles may use amber or white lights or a combination of both.
For more information about what lights may be available to you, we suggest calling your State Highway Patrol office at: 518-457-5330
*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.