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Author Topic: Blue Lights on non Emergency Vehicles  (Read 2365 times)
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« on: February 05, 2005, 00:00:39 AM »

nikki:
I respond to 999 emergency medical calls for a charity in partnership with the local ambulance service. i do this as a volenteer in my own car and have to drive to R.T act (no blue lights or siren). Recently we have been given a taxi style box with "emergency " written on the front and responder written on the back it displays white light to the front and red to the rear and flashes (not on and off it has two pairs of lights which flash each pair in turn )

My question is this is this legal im very aware i could be had up if it isnt because i wouldbe held responsible.

Thanks in advance for your help


RC:
If your car is being used as an emergency vehicle you should have a dispensation under the road traffic act. The easiest way to find out is toask whoever gave you the roof thingy whether they have had it's legality checked. If not go to your local police station and ask them to get a traffic car to pay you a visit to discuss it.

To be honest though, as long as you are a safe driver, the police don't make a habit of prosecuting people trying to save lives. However, if the wheel comes off (not literally) it's your licence.


nikki:
Thanks for that. I dont think ive got any kind of dispensation under RT act though as if you get caught speeding or whatever its your licence and the charity will not defend you and would probably chuck you out.

As for asking the local traffic, dont know if weve got one, the police station isnt even open 24hours ( just office hours)

The charity say they have checked but dont know if that means its a local agreement with the police or if its strictly legal.


Metplod:
It might be because I've just finished lates and it is 2330 hrs... but I'm not sure what you are saying here. At one point you are saying that it doesn't flash, but you go onto say that pairs of lights flash!!

Either way, it would fall foul of Reg 13 of the Lighting Regs 1989 which states:-

'No vehicle shall be fitted with a lamp which automatically emits a flashing
light.'

Exceptions include direction indicators, a headlamp fitted to an emergency vehicle; a warning beacon or special warning lamp.

‘Special warning lamp’
A lamp, fitted to the front or rear of a vehicle, capable of emitting a blue flashing light and not any other kind of light.

‘Warning beacon’
A lamp that is capable of emitting a flashing or rotating beam of light throughout 360 degrees in the horizontal plane.

If you want to use this device the light must remain steady (ie not flash).

Does that clear things up for you?


RC:
Metplod, doesn't the car qualify as an emergency vehicle?


chiprafp:
In the RAF we have a thing called First responders, These are vehicles kitted out like ambulances and the drivers are trained by the police and licensed, I have never heard of the ones described above but doubt they could be classed as emergency vehicles, if they were then surely the local ambo service would get them licensed?


JohnKelly:
nikki. I cannot advise you on British Law but if you were living in Australia here is what I would advise.

I reckon that your Road Traffic Regulations would have definitions of Emergency Vehicles and the definition would probably read something like this, lets say in the case of a Police Vehicle...."A Police Emergency Vehicle is a vehicle driven by a police officer who is on urgent police business and the vehicle is fitted and has in use, a siren, bell or repeater horn and a warning beacon that is ......."

I personally think that you are on very shakey ground in relation to the use of your private vehicle as a Emergency Vehicle.

Request your Charity Organisation to state in writing that your vehicle when it has fitted....... and is being driven by.....is an Authorised Emergency Vehicle pursuant to Section ?? of your Road Traffic Regulations.

Once you have that letter, then you should then write a letter to The Officer in Charge of your Road Traffic Branch (or whatever you call it), attached a copy of the authorising letter from your Charity Organisation and request The Officer in Charge, for written confirmation.

There are a number of gaps in what you are saying nikki, for example, if your vehicle with you as the driver was classed as an Emergency Vehicle, would you not have to qualify as a Emergency Vehicle Driver and would your vehicle not have to be given Roadworthy Test?

Being the driver of an Emergency Vehicle is full of pit-falls and if something goes wrong, then the onus is on you the driver, to show cause why you should not be charged under the relevant Road Traffic Laws.

Anyhow, bottom line, don't drive that vehicle as an Emergency Vehicle until you have received written authority from an Authorised Officer.


nikki:
The box has 2 pairs of lights that flash each pair in turn hence although it does flash the whole box dosent flash on and off.

Dont think im being cheeky but are you sure special warning lamps can only be blue what about the green light bars used by doctors?

Can you (or anyone else) clear up when im driving to an emergency do i qualify as an emergency vehicle i read one definition that said an ambulance was a vehicle despatched by the ambulance service to an emergency or words to that effect.

Also if im driving round town not on a call and im stopped for a roadside check (the local copppers like these and do quite a few) even though this box wouldnt be lit as it wouldnt be plugged in im i right in thinking i could still get done for having it on the car?

Sorry to go on but i do think weve been left in a sort of halfway house with this id like people to get out of the way and get to jobs quicker but i do think the only way to do this properly is marked cars provided by the trust proper driver training and blues and twos.


RC:
John, our definition of an emergency vehice is simply one that is being used for police, ambulance or fire purposes. The exemption from certain parts of the Road Traffic Act is when it would hinder the use to which the vehicle is being put. There is no legal requirement for the driver to be specially trained, although most are.

However, Nikki, John is right. Don't do it until you get something in writing.


Metplod:
I don't think that it does, because thats what we have the Ambulance service for. I understand the theory behind first responders, but I don't think that what they do is for the same level of urgency as an ambulance... I could be wrong, but that's my understanding.


nikki wrote:   
The box has 2 pairs of lights that flash each pair in turn hence although it does flash the whole box dosent flash on and off.   


As long as they flash, no matter what sequence / order they are not a steady light and therefore an offence is committed.


nikki wrote:   
Dont think im being cheeky but are you sure special warning lamps can only be blue what about the green light bars used by doctors?   


These come under the same legislation, regulation 11(2)

(m) green light from a warning beacon fitted to a vehicle used by a medical practitioner registered by the General Medical Council (whether with full, provisional or limited registration)

What is the purpose of having this unit on the car? If you want to use this type of unit, then it needs to be altered so that the lamps remain steady at all times and do not flash. You might get away with it for a while, but if you were seen by a traffic officer (like me) we might be having a chat over some paperwork  


nikki wrote:   
Also if im driving round town not on a call and im stopped for a roadside check (the local copppers like these and do quite a few) even though this box wouldnt be lit as it wouldnt be plugged in im i right in thinking i could still get done for having it on the car?   


This usually refers to people who put blue flashing lights on their vehicle and then drive around thinking that they are safe from prosecution because it is not illuminated. Basically the offence is committed by having it on display. To answer your question, you wouldn't commit an offence with it switched off because it is not a special warning lamp.


nikki wrote:   
Sorry to go on but i do think weve been left in a sort of halfway house with this id like people to get out of the way and get to jobs quicker but i do think the only way to do this properly is marked cars provided by the trust proper driver training and blues and twos.   


Which Ambulance service are you doing this for? They must have some sort of policy or terms of reference for what you are doing. At present the I don't believe that the Road Traffic Act with respect to emergency vehicle applies to you. Therefore, should you commit an offence whilst driving to a call you could leave yourself open to a few hours at the local magistrates.

Can you tell me who the manufacturer of the unit is? I might be able to find it on the web.


nikki:
The work of a community responder is the same level of urgency as the ambulance we are despatched to life threatning medical calls at the same time as the ambulance our response counts toward orcon but more essentially it is hoped our early arrival will save lives. Once on scene i am responsible for the patient until the arrival of the crew or doctor

The purpose is to inform other motorists we are there to hopefully convince them to pull over for us although obviously they are not compelled to. Also to make us visible to people who may be waiting for us.

Dont know who manufactures the sign


Storm:
Firstly it sounds like you are doing a really worthwhile job, all credit to you.

Secondly just to reiterate a point already mentioned, please please please, before you use the light, get something in writing or at least checked out by your force. As good as the advice on this forum is, it’s not going to hold up if you are stuck in court one day saying “But these chaps on the ‘net said it’d be right!” (no offence to advisees just playing safe).

Best of luck with it, will be interesting to hear the outcome.


dsarges:
I had a retained fireman behind me a few weeks ago, and he just had an flourescent orange card with 'FIREMAN' (written backwards) on it which he had on his dashboard so that it could be seen......

That was good enough for me to get out of the way - although he did 'appear' right on my tail at speed, so that helped too......


Dorset_Proby:
Don't even think about using the lights, Nikki. If you have an accident, or a car getting out of your way has an accident, you'll be up refuse way without a taxi. I'm currently on my standard car course which is 4 weeks of rigourous training on how to drive to a recognised standard and then use emergency lights for response. If I have an accident when the 'blues and twos' are on I'll be bricking it, so please don't put yourself in the situation where you could lose your job/life/vehicle/liberty as you've got no way of defending how you've been driving.


djdiablo:
I agree with what everyone else has said about 'law' and 'getting stuff in writing' but when it comes down to it, you're driving an emergency vehicle. This is a cracking defence in court.

The bare bones of the situation are:

You do need to be trained to drive at speed and you do need to be 'allowed' to break the speed limit.

Flashing lights etc, hmm, you shouldn't use unless they're 'real', any tom dick or harry can go into gadget shop and get a blue flashing light which plugs into your fag lighter - it doesn't however give them any right of way and it does break the law by displaying it.

So, in brief, if you've been trained to drive at speed and you are given the power to break traffic laws - you can.
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LondonPC:
FIRST RESPONDERS ARE NOT EMERGENCY VEHICLES

Unfortunately, even though you may have the best will in the world, no court will accept the fact that you are responding to an emergency as a defence.

If you drive this vehicle with your flashing box on top you will commit an offence.

If you drive the vehicle in excess of the speed limit/fail to comply with a red traffic light/fail to comply with a directional arrow etc you will commit further offences.

You have presumably had no emergency response training and should you have an accident, without doubt you will be prosecuted for driving dangerously/without due care.

The police take this sort of thing extremely seriousy. In the Met we have three driver classifications. The lowest is Basic Driver who may drive a 2.0 Turbo Diesel Vauxhall Astra, but must only use the blue light to stop vehicles. They cannot use Blues and Twos to make progress through traffic or chase vehicles. They are regularly assigned to emergency calls (such as person stabbed etc) but are not authorised to break speed limits or jump lights. They must make their way to the call observing the road laws. If they do not and they are caught (and they regularly are) they can be prosecuted and end up losing both their Police and Civilian Driving Licence.

Although you may be responding to emergencies, you have no excuse. If we prosecute fellow police officers, then Emergency Responders have no chance.

The retained firefighter mentioned should follow the same rules. The only reason for the sign is so that people move out of the way as a matter of courtesy.

No emergency is so great that untrained drivers should risk accident or injury to themselves or others.


djdiablo:
well that told me!

Here at SW we have 5 levels of driver training. Level 5 is response driver (blues/twos), 4 is van, 3 is intermediate, 2 is advanced, 1 is .... um pilot maybe? I can't remember, maybe it shifts down the scale or something.
There's definately 5 and I know that I'm 5. Below that is 'assessed' who can use a panda for routine calls and emergency calls following rta regs.

Can't drive a traffic (2500cc or more) car unless you're at least a 3.


RC:
djdiablo wrote:   
You do need to be trained to drive at speed and you do need to be 'allowed' to break the speed limit.   


Not according to the law. In fact there are many private ambulance operators who don't have any extra training at all. It's a disgrace but that's how it is.
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