Uses and Applications of Emergency Vehicle Lights!

Emergency Vehicle Lights

Emergency vehicles are the backbone of a well-functioning society. Be it police cars, fire trucks, ambulances or utility trucks, they each serve a highly specific function and ensure the well-being of the general population.

Due to the rather extreme nature of their work, these vehicles come equipped with specialized devices and accessories which are meant to improve their function and the safety of the drivers and passengers. One such common feature is LED emergency vehicle lights.

They not only ensure safety and visibility for the emergency personnel, but they also alert other motorists and bystanders of their presence. To elaborate further, we’ll take a look at the importance and applications of 4 major types of emergency vehicle lights.

Role Of LED Emergency Vehicle Lights

1. Police Vehicles

Most police vehicles feature the trademark combination of red and blue lights. These are typically mounted on the front or top of the vehicle and are designed to alert bystanders and other motorists of their presence. The reason behind using these two colours in tandem is their contrasting wavelengths.

Red has the longest wavelength, making it visible across long distances. Meanwhile blue has a much shorter wavelength. Together, they are used to create visual contrast, thereby getting the attention of the bystander. 

Apart from these two colours, many police vehicles also use white or amber lights. However, they are generally mounted on the rear end of the vehicle as an indicator or as an auxiliary light. Lastly, apart from regular law enforcement personnel using these flashing lights on their vehicles, some volunteer police officers can also use these lights on their cars in certain states. 

These special police personnel are usually employed as security in certain institutions and have permission from the police and the government to use these lights in some emergency situations to assist law enforcement.

Ultimately, these LED lights are an essential component of police vehicles, providing visual alertness to civilians as well as ensuring the safety of the officers and other motorists when they are on the road. 

2. Ambulances

Most ambulances and EMS vehicles use red and white lights as the main source of illumination. One of the biggest applications of using these lights is to alert other bystanders and motorists on the road of their presence. Since ambulances are mainly deployed only for emergency medical situations, there is a pressing need to reach the destination as quickly as possible and to also transport patients quickly to a medical facility.

With the help of these lights, other motorists are alerted that the ambulance is heading to or from the site of an emergency. Consequently, they can make way for the ambulance. These lights are used in conjunction with sirens to alert the public of their presence. 

Red is the preferred colour of choice here because it universally signifies danger or an emergency. When used in conjunction with white, it creates great visual contrast. Lastly, white or amber can also be used as an auxiliary light colour in the rear of the vehicle to alert motorists behind them.

Interior light bars, strobe lights, traffic indicators, and even grille or bumper lights might use white or amber colours. Overall, this colour combination of red and white is used universally to secure clear and safe passage for EMS vehicles. 

3. Fire Trucks

Fires remain a major hazard in the modern world, necessitating the services of firefighting crews. These highly trained personnel visit the scene of the fire on a large fire truck. The fire chief of a particular department might also have their own truck or personal vehicle.

For fire trucks, the red and white emergency LED lights are significant. These are generally mounted on the front and top of the vehicle and are accompanied by sirens to make their presence known on the road. 

Apart from the emergency lights, the white lights might also be used on other parts of the vehicle, just like police cruisers and ambulances. The main purpose of these lights is to notify the motorists on the road that the fire truck is heading toward the scene of the fire at high speeds.

The common protocol for regular drivers witnessing an approaching fire truck with emergency lights is to pull their vehicle to the side of the road if possible to let the truck pass. This is essential as each second is valuable when it comes to attending a fire.

Apart from the trademark red and white lights which are almost universal, some cities can use different colors for their lights, such as the Chicago fire department, which uses green lights on the starboard side of the vehicle.

4. Towing and Roadside Assistance Vehicles

Lastly, there are amber lights used in towing and other manners of roadside assistance vehicles. While amber lights are used as secondary lighting in other emergency vehicles, their usage is quite different for utility vehicles. In this instance, the amber lights are quite prominent in the form of large strobe lights, bulbs, or indicators mounted on the top, front and rear of the vehicle. 

The reason for using amber lights, in this case, is the wavelength of the light itself. Amber is close to red in terms of wavelength, and it is already established that the latter has the longest wavelength in the visible light spectrum. Therefore, it is considered to be highly visible to the human eye. Hence, amber lights can alert other motorists from a long distance that a tow truck or construction vehicle is on the road. 

Apart from alerting civilians during motion, they also indicate that there is some work in progress when utility vehicles are parked on the road. Therefore they can avoid road closures due to construction or repair, excessive snowing or other similar situations.

Lastly, it also offers safety for the crew traveling in the vehicles, especially on highways, where other vehicles are traveling at high speeds. Therefore, amber lights are a perfect fit for utility vehicles and are used all across the United States and a few other countries across the globe.


In summary, emergency lighting is an integral part of these vehicles, ensuring alertness as well as safety for motorists and bystanders. It also ensures some level of safety and easy passage for the emergency personnel, which is extremely crucial in cases of an accident, fire, road repair or a crime.

Lastly, while the color of the lights might vary a bit in some states and nations, the principle of using these lights for the above mentioned purposes remains the same.

Emergency Vehicle Lights article and permission to publish here provided by Dhruv Mehta. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on March 15, 2023.

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