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  • CA Police Cruiser Lighting Question

    In CA, I know police cruisers must have at least a solid red light displayed on their cruisers.

    Every single time when I see a solid red light or any red light, I always think of it as the FIRE/EMS people.

    Even single time when I see blue light, I know right away it's the police. In CA, why don't they have a law that makes police cruisers use blue lights only? Would you change this law if you were a lawmaker?

    Thx.
    May God bless every single public servant out there!

  • #2
    At the bare minimum, California requires that all emergency vehicles (police, fire ambulance, etc,) be equipped with at least one steady burning red warning lamp visible from at least 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle.

    There is little difficulty seeing red lights from a distance during either day or night. This gives people a lot of advance warning that an emergency vehicle is approaching and that they need to yield right of way. However, blue lights are difficult to see from a distance during the daylight hours.

    I personally favor both for law enforcement vehicles.

    What gets scary is that different lights have different meanings in different states, which can be confusing when you travel. One night years back I was driving through Wyoming when I say a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction with its red lights activated. I immediately pulled over to yield right of way, only to find out it was a tow truck meandering back to the yard pulling a vehicle. Here in California, they wouldn't even activate their amber lights for that. On another trip through Florida, I came across a vehicle with an activated green light bar. Green means "go" in my state so I have no idea how I was supposed to do.
    Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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    • #3
      Standardization of lighting is one goal I would love to see the Feds be involved with.

      And I take issue with the concept "everyone" can see red on a bright day. I am partially color blind, I can NOT see red when diluted by bright sunlight, but blue is quiet visible to me.

      Driving this truck from coast to coast, I find many different combinations of lighting.

      Most common is red, (LEO and EMS/Fire), with white used almost excusively by fire/ems and locomotives.

      Blue I have seen on everything from cop cars to snow plows.

      The "green" light I have seen only once, in New York State ... I stopped to allow it to proceed, and they waved me on!

      Later I checked, and according to what I was told, green is the "next" fire/ems team reporting to the station when the front line unit's have been dispatched. it mean's NOTHING other than, "May I go ahead of you" ... now thats weird!

      In my home sate of Ohio, my wife voluenteers on the fire department as a paramedic, we have a very visible light bar and 100w siren and speaker on the SportTrac ....

      btw, these units are affectionally called "fire briars", a throwback to their hillbilly roots!
      Monty ..

      Over the road trucker for 38 years .. married to police officer for 30 years. (And she hasn't shot me yet .. but there was that time with the cuffs ... )

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      • #4
        Kalifornia is so weird.

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        • #5
          No California is not wierd, in my personal opinion CA has one of the best systems set up in the country. Red and blue lights on a police car have been the most recognized and standardized since the TV show Adam-12. Whenever anyone from anywhere in the country see's red and blue lights together, they're going to automatically recognize it as the police (if they have ever watched TV). There's not going to be any confusion, i.e. thinking it might be a security car, or an EMS vehicle, or a fire truck. And having red and blue lights is a good mix for the day and night environment.

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          • #6
            Although there are plenty of other reasons why Kalifornia is weird, the red & blues isn't what I was referring to. The weird part is that you have to have steady red. I imagine you usually wind up losing attention-getting flashing red light cause it's gotta be steady.

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            • #7
              They don't all have to be steady, just one. Its because old rotating lights didn't do the job well enough. A simple glance in a rear view mirror and someone could miss it (going back to the large bublegum red lights). And it works well so why change it. The only emergency vehicles in california that have all blue lights are boats (regardless of what emergency service they are used for) and bicycles.

              California is normal compared to some other states that have tow trucks with red/blue or any combo of them. Or new mexico where even city gardners have blue lights.
              Get low, get ground, get tactical! Sprawl! Sprawl! Sprawl!

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              • #8
                Here's another weird for you .. I have two AMBER strobe lights on my semi, (I do many oversise loads), in California they must be covered, the only transport truck that can use them is LONG loads, not oversize. I recently transported a 13' wide tank from the Spokane area down to Reno .. I was REQUIRED to have them on in Washington, Oregon and Nevada, and told to take them off in California .. go figure.

                In Nevada and Georgia, a permit is required to have them, even if your oversize permit calls for them.

                Several other states request, but usually don't demand, a cover.

                And being a logical thinker, I can't figure why they would be an issue at all, unless activated .... I have came up on several road hazards, (wrecks, breakdown, etc), where they were quite effective in warning traffic until help arrived.
                Monty ..

                Over the road trucker for 38 years .. married to police officer for 30 years. (And she hasn't shot me yet .. but there was that time with the cuffs ... )

                Comment


                • #9
                  Lighting, Colors, etc.


                  I may be accused of being an "old-timer" here, but I recall the Adam 12 show from my childhood. They had late 1960s and early 1970s cars (mostly Plymouths and a few AMCs), and they never had red & blue lights back then. LAPD units used the "can" lights. They were steady burn red in the front and flashing amber to the rear. Even the CHP used all-reds in that era. Some CA cars used gumball lights, too; but even they were still red on both sides. Remember S.W.A.T. and the cars they had?

                  If memory proves me correctly, the LAPD and CHP switched to red & blue lights in the mid-1970s. They had one lens segment with the steady burn red on the driver's side and a rear-facing flashing amber light inside the blue half of the light bar. The unmarked cars had a red lens in the driver's side spotlight that was also steady burn (to comply with their law).

                  In VA, all LEO vehicles must use blue lights.....but a lot of departments choose to use both blue and red. Still, others have clear or white lights added as options (Piercer strobes, etc.). Fire and EMS use all-red or red and white combinations - but they cannot use any blue. You may find a fire marshal with a red and blue light on their vehicle, since they are sometimes considered 'law enforcement' and can make arrests for certain code violations. Some county and city cops in VA have amber lights in the back window or set up in the rear of their blue light bars, but I have never seen amber facing toward the front of a squad car. I have seen a fire truck with a green strobe light mounted atop their light bar, and I can only assume that it is a battalion commander or something like that.

                  I have not been to CA in many years, but every cop car I saw there had red and blue lights. Also, and it seems odd to me, is that almost every car was painted some type of black and white scheme -- although it differed slightly from county to city to state. Some had white roofs, black doors, white hoods, black trunks, etc., etc.; while others were mostly black with white on only the front doors (CHP?). You'd think they'd have more of a variety of color schemes with so many agencies in such a large state.

                  The only places where I saw cop cars with all red lights recently had to be NY and NJ. State troopers there have the old red Street Hawk bars, although some of the newer cars have LEDs that are clear until they are activated. Volunteer firefighters are allowed to use blue lights on their personal vehicles when responding to calls -- which is kind of odd to see if you are used to living in a state where cops are the only ones who can have blue lights. Some local police in NJ had red & blues, though. Michigan State Police still have those old "death ray" red gumball lights, too. Tradition rules!


                  PA changed their law about ten years ago, which used to only require police to use red (or red and blue if they wanted to) lights; so now all marked LEO cars must use red and blue lights. All-red indicates EMS, fire or other emergency vehicle; and all-blue is a volunteer in their personal car. Kind of neat to see an all-blue Whelen strobe light bar on a Toyota Corolla belonging to a volunteer! Remember when PA State Police cars had the single red strobe that looked like a popcorn popper? They used to have the single red light and the two "Mickey Mouse" ear roof-mounted brake lights. Now, even they have gone to Vector light bars that have red, blue and clear light pods.

                  Well, enough wasted typing about that stuff. I know everyone has their own opinion about light bars and colors. Very simply, I think that police should use all-blue or red and blue. Fire/EMS should use red or red & white lights. Utility vehicles, tow trucks, DOT snowplows or maintenance trucks should stick with amber lights. It is simpler that way (IMHO), but I suppose each state should be free to make its own rules regarding lighting & colors, as the federal gov't is best left to handling other things that are a bit more pressing (such as wars and national defense). Just my humble opinion.


                  Wherever you are, just be sure to pull over if it flashes red or blue.....and you should not run afoul of anyone's laws. If you see amber, remain alert. slow down a bit and use some caution.


                  http://copcardotcom.fotki.com/contri...a/1mark67.html

                  1974 Dodge Monaco "slick top" with the red 'steady burn' spotlight on the left-hand side

                  http://copcardotcom.fotki.com/contri...hberger04.html

                  1967 Plymouth shown with the "can" lights used in the 'Adam 12' era
                  Last edited by VA Dutch; 07-22-2006, 09:22 AM.

                  The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                  The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                  ------------------------------------------------

                  "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Weird or not, it draws a lot less attention to everyone else, besides the offending driver, and is therefore more polite. The option is still there if they don't notice the steady red.

                    Originally posted by AggiePhil
                    Although there are plenty of other reasons why Kalifornia is weird, the red & blues isn't what I was referring to. The weird part is that you have to have steady red. I imagine you usually wind up losing attention-getting flashing red light cause it's gotta be steady.
                    "Respect for religion must be reestablished. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of public officials must be curtailed. Assistance to foreign lands must be stopped or we shall bankrupt ourselves. The people should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence." - Cicero, 60 B.C.

                    For California police academy notes go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CABasicPolice/

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                    • #11
                      Most of CA. uses the black and white color scheme for police cars because its easily recognizable, from close up and from a distance. Most people automatically assume black and white is a police car, just from movies and TV and stuff.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Razor60
                        In CA, I know police cruisers must have at least a solid red light displayed on their cruisers............... In CA, why don't they have a law that makes police cruisers use blue lights only?
                        We have enough stupid laws in California, thank you very much..... we don't need any more. And in California, they are "radio cars" or "patrol cars"......... not "cruisers" ........... you east coast person, you.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Black & White Cars


                          Yes, I know it is a very popular color scheme for police vehicles in CA, and should be easily recognized universally as a law enforcement vehicle. However, doesn't it make it harder to differentiate between agencies? Heck, even the star & shield on the doors don't look very different from place to place.

                          It used to be that way here in VA when almost every sheriff's office used brown cars.....but at least they had varying shades. You could find the deepest, chocolate "UPS" brown in some counties - all the way up to almost being beige in others. Now, you'll see grey, white, brown and even blue sheriff's cars in VA.

                          Most police departments have white patrol cars in VA, but the decals and striping are different enough, so that it is rather easy to tell one place's cops from another. There are also many different types of light bar styles that differentiate our PD from one in a neighboring city or county.


                          I suppose it is just a matter of what you are accustomed to in your area, huh?

                          For some nice photos, check out the link below. They have all types of cars listed state by state.




                          http://policecarsite.atspace.com/main.html {Main Page}

                          http://policecarsite.atspace.com/states.html {State By State Listing}

                          The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                          The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                          ------------------------------------------------

                          "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            What the heck is a "radio car"? Does this term really make sense to anyone? They're cars for policemen, not radio repairmen.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nobody33
                              Or new mexico where even city gardners have blue lights.
                              The volunteer firemen in IN are only allowed to have blue lights I think. Talk about effed up!
                              "When I held that gun in my hand, I felt a surge of power ... like God must feel when he's holding a gun. " Homer Simpson

                              sigpic

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