How Emergency Vehicle Lighting Regulations Differ State by State

In the United States, we have vehicle safety standards that are the result of multiply regulatory bodies including: The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). These groups work with manufactures to produces safe, reliable products, and help form police that will keep both first responders and the public, safe.

Individual states still hold the power to decide which vehicles can use emergency lighting, and how. Often times the colors used by different first responders such as police, fire and EMS, varies according the state laws.

In the state of New York three statutes pertain specifically to how and when emergency lights, such as LED lighting, can be used and by whom: VAT-1–101, and VAT-375.41.2–4.

VAT-1–101 identifies which vehicles are considered authorized emergency vehicles in the state of New York. They include: every EMS, police vehicle or bicycle, fire vehicle, correction vehicle, and civil defense emergency vehicle. It also lists blood delivery vehicles, county emergency medical services, environmental emergency response, sanitation patrol vehicle, and ordnance disposal vehicles of the U.S. armed forces.

VAT-375 is a lengthy article that covers most of the traffic and vehicle laws. VAT-375–41 describes the uses for different color emergency vehicle LED lights, and how they must be mounted and displayed. Red and white lights are to be used only by emergency vehicles involved in fire rescue as well as other authorized emergency vehicles. They may be engaged on the way to and during an emergency operation. Fire vehicles are also allowed to use emergency vehicle warning lights when returning to the station after an emergency call.

Blue lights, when mounted by themselves with no additional colors, are designated for your only by volunteer firefighters, only after approval by the fire chief of the station they work at.

Combinations of blue, red and white lights are for use by police, fire, EMS, or county emergency medical vehicles.

Amber emergency lights are allowed to be used by emergency vehicles conduction calls on the side of the road, moving traffic. Amber strobe lightsmust be displayed to all approaching traffic, as to indicate the area in which emergency activities are occurring.

As you can see, just one state can vary widely on the regulations regarding emergency vehicle lighting. Follow our blog for more great emergency lighting information. We will be exploring the emergency vehicle lighting regulations for all 50 state in the coming months. For more information please visit

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