This article was written by a contributing author, and is not meant to be taken as legal advice, nor is it intended to replace the state statutes. Do your due diligence, cross-check the statutes linked, and communicate with your local municipalities, registrar, or commissioner to ensure that you remain compliant and avoid costly fees.
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When it comes to rules and regulations surrounding the use of emergency lights for an authorized emergency vehicle, Florida provides a succinct and easy-to-read format that almost anyone can read and understand. They are similar to most state laws regarding LED lights for emergency purposes, with few exceptions.
They wanted to remain as explicit as possible to remove the possibility of confusion and ambiguity. Most vehicle types were explicitly mentioned, making it easy for you to know when you are permitted to use an emergency light on the road or highway.
Law Enforcement Statutes
Police, Marshall, and Sheriff Vehicles
The state of Florida is a little intentional about its use of blue lighting for an authorized emergency vehicle. Laws were created specifically to mitigate the possibility of criminals using blue lights to take advantage of unsuspecting victims on the highway, because of this, only police vehicles and corrections officers responding to an emergency are permitted to use blue emergency lights, according to Florida State Statute 316.2397
However, this permission is not a blanket covering each law enforcement vehicle per Florida State Statute 33.602.701. A blue light can be used for a primary and secondary canine unit and may only be used on three vehicles per department. Every other police vehicle must use red and white flashing lights as required by Florida State Statute 316.2397.
Florida State Statute 316.126 requires each motor vehicle on the highway to yield to a police vehicle and law enforcement vehicle when displaying their emergency lights. If the speed limit exceeds 25 MPH on a two-lane road or highway, traffic must slow down to 20 MPH. Otherwise, they must move over at least one lane. If necessary, traffic must pull off the road or highway completely to provide safe passage.
Florida has the strictest laws regarding what is permissible when driving with lights and sirens. A police vehicle is not permitted to disregard the posted speed limit or other traffic laws unless running both their sirens and emergency lights. If they are not utilizing both, they are violating Florida State Statute 316.126. They are still required to drive with due regard for the safety of all others on the road to prevent a car crash.
Fire and EMS Statues
Fire Trucks and Fire Chief SUVs
Florida State Statute 316.2397 allows a fire truck or vehicle owned by the fire department to display at least one red light. They may only operate this light in the event of an emergency. There are no other laws and regulations discussing an emergency light on an authorized emergency vehicle used by the fire department.
Traffic is required by Florida State Statute 316.126 to yield to an emergency vehicle used by the fire department. If the speed limit exceeds 25 MPH on a two-lane highway, the motor vehicle must slow to 20 MPH. Traffic may also be required to pull off the road or highway altogether to allow for the safe passage of an authorized emergency vehicle used by the fire department.
Fire is not permitted to disregard the speed limit of any other traffic law when responding to an emergency.
Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles
Florida State Statute 316.2398 allows a volunteer firefight to display no more than two red or white lights on their personal vehicle while using it as an authorized emergency vehicle. They must obtain permission from the department’s chief executive officer, and it must be in the possession of the person driving the volunteer authorized emergency vehicle. They are only permitted to use their emergency white or red light when on their way to an emergency scene.
Traffic is required to yield to a volunteer firefighter vehicle per Florida State Statute 316.126. If they are on a two-lane highway with a speed limit above 25 MPH, traffic must slow their motor vehicle to 20 MPH. Otherwise, they must move over a minimum of one lane of pull off the road or highway completely to allow safe passage.
Ambulance and EMT Vehicles
Per Florida State Statute 316.2397, an ambulance or emergency vehicle is only permitted to display a white and red light that is flashing or revolving. These lights may only be displayed while actively on the way to an emergency scene.
All medical personnel must also complete a 16-hour vehicle operator course before being permitted to display a white or red light on an authorized emergency vehicle.
Emergency medical volunteers are permitted to use their personal vehicle as an authorized emergency vehicle as long as they obtain written permission from the chief executive officer of their company. The warning signals must be visible from the front and rear of the vehicle.
Traffic is required to yield to an ambulance or emergency personnel operating their personal vehicle as an authorized emergency vehicle. In the event that they are on a two-lane highway with a speed limit greater than 25 MPH, each motor vehicle must be slowed to a speed limit of 20 MPH. Traffic must move over at least one lane or pull off the road or highway completely in all other situations.
An ambulance is not permitted to disregard the posted speed limit or any other traffic law while on their way to an emergency scene. Their emergency lights and sirens indicate to traffic the need for them to move over. There is no need for them to proceed in an unsafe manner.
Commercial and Amber Statutes
According to Florida State Statute 316.2397, a private security vehicle can come equipped with a green or amber light as long as either color is no greater than 50 percent of the lights displayed. These lights must be used while actively working for the private security company while responding to an emergency.
Traffic is not obligated to respond to a security vehicle in any way, and the security vehicle is not permitted to disregard traffic laws while responding to an emergency.
Wreckers and Tow Trucks
Florida State Statute 316.2397 permits a tow truck or wrecker to display amber lights when in operation or when a hazard exists. They may not use their lights when traveling to or from a roadside emergency.
The amber flashing light or revolving light must be illuminated when loading a vehicle or when performing an extraction. The lights may remain on while the wheel lift is used as needed to alert traffic of a potential safety hazard on the road or highway. A flatbed tow truck or wrecker is not permitted to use their amber lighting when towing a vehicle unless there is an unusual safety hazard that causes them to need to inform traffic for their safety.
Tractors are not explicitly mentioned under Florida law regarding their need for LED lights and other forms of emergency lighting. It appears that they might fall under Florida State Statute 316.2397, where they are permitted to use amber flashing lights while actively clearing a roadside hazard.
This may not be completely accurate. Please contact your local municipalities before utilizing any emergency lighting to avoid costly fines or penalties.
Florida State Statute 316.2397 doesn’t explicitly say the words “utility vehicle,” but it describes all the types of utility vehicles that are permitted to use an amber light for emergency purposes. Although it doesn’t directly refer to utility vehicles, it is safe to assume the vehicles listed are more so an exhaustive list under the utility vehicle umbrella.
That being said, that is just an interpretation. Feel free to read the laws regarding utility vehicles yourself and contact your local municipalities to avoid the possibility of costly fines and penalties that can result in points on your license.
Pilot and Escort Vehicles
When the pilot or escort vehicle is in the actual process of escorting an oversized vehicle transporting large equipment, materials, or housing, an escort is permitted to display an amber light that is flashing or revolving. According to Florida State Statute 316.2397, there are no other circumstances where the pilot vehicle can use their emergency lights.
Traffic must pass safely, but they are not legally required to yield to a pilot vehicle.
Road construction vehicles are permitted to display a flashing light or flashing strobe light while actively working on the road so that they can alert traffic of the potential hazard. This is covered under Florida State Statute 316.2397
Flashing green, amber, and red lights may also be used when the road construction vehicle is on a highway where the speed limit exceeds 55 MPH. The lights can only be used to indicate that there are workers present.
There are no explicit requirements for traffic to yield to a construction vehicle with their emergency lights illuminated. That being said, the state of Florida requires traffic to change lanes when there is a disabled vehicle or other hazards on the road.
A funeral procession is not explicitly mentioned under Florida statutes, but as it needs a pilot vehicle, it is likely safe to assume that the same regulations apply. Please be sure to communicate with your local municipalities before utilizing warning lights for a funeral procession, just to be sure.
If it is covered by Florida State Statute 316.2397 as a pilot vehicle, then the funeral procession is permitted to display an amber flashing or revolving light to indicate to traffic that there is a potential road hazard.
Traffic is not obligated to yield to a funeral procession.
Emergency Lights On Personal Vehicles
Aside from points already listed for exemptions for personal authorized emergency vehicle use for volunteer fire and medical, there are no other exemptions for the private use of emergency lights.
For the most part, Florida is very intentional with its laws and regulations surrounding the use of emergency lighting. So much so that they have strict laws against their improper use. Florida State Statute 843.081 was explicitly created to ban the use of blue lights for any other agency or individual except law enforcement. In addition, firefighters and volunteer firefighters will be dismissed immediately if caught misusing their emergency lights.
As always, please double-check the statutes for yourself and contact your local municipalities to ensure that you are staying within the legal guidelines for your industry.