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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Hawaii has some of the least restrictive laws surrounding the use of LED lights for an authorized emergency vehicle or commercial vehicle. They make very few provisions or restrictions aside from specific safety needs and law enforcement vehicles themselves.
Note: Hawaii law defines an authorized emergency vehicle in Hawaii Revised Statute 291C-1 as:
- Fire Department Vehicles
- Police Vehicles
- Ocean Safety Vehicles
- Public Safety Law Enforcement Vehicles
- Conservation and Resources enforcement vehicles publicly or privately owned
Law Enforcement Statutes
Police, Marshall, and Sheriff Vehicles
Per Hawaii Revised Statute 291-31.5, the only authorized emergency vehicle permitted to display red emergency lights or blue flashing lights is a vehicle operated for law enforcement purposes. These lights must be visible at 200 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight.
A law enforcement vehicle operated by county police needs permission from that county’s police chief to use red emergency lights or blue flashing lights, and they may only be used within that county. Department of safety law enforcement vehicles may have blue and red lamps if authorized by the director of public safety. In addition, law enforcement vehicles operated by the department of land and natural resources division of conservation may use these LED lights if authorized by the chairperson of the board of land and natural resources, and law enforcement vehicles operated by the department of transportation division of harbors may use them as well if authorized by the director of transportation.
Although there is no explicit mention in Hawaii law, law enforcement is generally permitted to disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law when traveling to an emergency using their emergency lights. This is to ensure that they arrive swiftly at the scene of an emergency. They must do so with due regard to the safety of other motorists on the road or highway.
Traffic must yield to police lights and law enforcement vehicles when their emergency lights are illuminated. This can be done by either changing lanes to create a safe distance between the vehicle and the emergency scene, slowing down, or pulling off the road or highway completely to allow safe passage for the police vehicle.
Fire and EMS Statues
Fire Trucks and Fire Chief SUVs
Hawaii State Statutes do not provide any provisions for a fire truck to use or display red emergency lights or blue flashing lights as would be expected in most other states. The only vehicles expressly permitted to display these colors are law enforcement vehicles operated by county police and other management law enforcement officials.
There are no other regulations against amber emergency lights, white strobe lights, or yellow flashing lights, as is commonly used on fire vehicles or fire trucks. Although Hawaii State Statutes explicitly say that red emergency lights and blue lights are exclusively for law enforcement vehicles, there are images and other indications that a fire truck or fire vehicle may use them. Contact your local municipalities for more information regarding the colors the fire department may use for their vehicles.
A fire vehicle or fire truck is generally permitted to disregard the posted speed limit or any other traffic law to swiftly arrive at the scene of an emergency. They must do so with due regard to the safety of all other vehicles on the road or highway to prevent a traffic accident. This is only permitted while on the way to the emergency and not while returning to the station.
Traffic is required to yield to a fire truck or fire vehicle displaying its emergency lights and or using their audible signals, such as a siren, exhaust whistle, or horn. This is done by changing lanes, slowing down, or pulling off the road or highway altogether to provide safe passage for the fire truck.
Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles
Per Hawaii Revised Statute 291C-1, a volunteer firefighter vehicle should qualify for the same rules and regulations as vehicles owned and operated directly by the fire department. It is unclear whether or not a volunteer firefighter vehicle may display red emergency lights or blue flashing lights, as it is unclear whether or not that is permitted for other fire vehicles.
Since there is no regulation against it, it may be safe to assume that a volunteer fire vehicle may use an amber light, yellow emergency lights, or a white flashing light to indicate that they are responding to an emergency or are currently tending to the scene of an emergency. There are no required LED light placement guidelines outlined in Hawaii law.
A volunteer fire vehicle is permitted to disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law to swiftly arrive at the scene of an emergency. They must do so while displaying their emergency lights and utilizing a siren, exhaust whistle, or horn. It is also required that the driver operate their vehicle with due regard to the safety of all traffic on the road or highway.
It is not explicitly stated in Hawaii law, but it is a general rule of thumb that traffic is required to yield to a volunteer fire vehicle when their emergency lights are illuminated. This is done by changing lanes, slowing down, or pulling off the road or highway completely to allow for the safe passage of a volunteer fire vehicle.
Ambulance and EMT Vehicles
Hawaii law only explicitly permits a law enforcement vehicle to display red emergency lights or blue flashing lights. According to pictures and other research, this may not always be the case as there is a history of an ambulance or other EMS vehicles displaying red lights. Please check with your local municipalities for more up-to-date and reliable local information before displaying red emergency lights.
An amber light, yellow light, or white light is not prohibited in Hawaii law, so it is safe to suggest that an ambulance may display these emergency lights when traveling to an emergency or indicating that they are on the scene of an emergency. These lights are typically located as high as possible and are generally required to be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight.
An ambulance is permitted to disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law to travel to an emergency to administer life-saving aid swiftly. Displaying their emergency lights is generally required alongside using a siren, exhaust whistle, or horn. They must do so with due regard to the safety of other motorists on the road or highway.
Traffic is obligated to yield to an ambulance or any other authorized emergency vehicle operated for emergency medical purposes when displaying their emergency lights. This is done by changing lanes, slowing down, or pulling off the road or highway completely so that the ambulance can pass safely.
Commercial and Amber Statutes
Security vehicles are not mentioned in Hawaii law regarding the use of any sort of LED or emergency lights. A security vehicle will generally have display an amber light, yellow light, or white strobe light when responding to an emergency or patrolling. A security vehicle is also typically equipped with a white spotlight, but Hawaii Revised Statute 291-30 does not allow them to be used within city limits.
Wreckers and Tow Trucks
Since Hawaii law does not mention any provisions or regulations for the usage or emergency lights on a tow truck outside red emergency lights and blue lights being exclusively for law enforcement vehicles, it is assumed that they may display an amber light, yellow lights, or white strobe lights. These lights will indicate to traffic the potential safety hazard on the road or highway when the tow truck is loading a disabled vehicle or cleaning up an accident.
Tractors are not mentioned under Hawaii law regarding what colors they may use or whether or not they are even permitted to display emergency lights. A tractor will generally display a yellow or amber light when needed to indicate that there may be a safety hazard on the road or highway.
Utility vehicles are not indicated for any special provisions or regulations under Hawaii state law. The only clear regulation mentioned is that the use of red emergency lights and blue lights is restricted. A utility vehicle will generally display an amber light, yellow light, or white light when indicating that they are working on the side of a road or highway so that traffic is aware of the potential safety hazard.
Pilot and Escort Vehicles
Hawaii law does not indicate whether or not a pilot vehicle is permitted to utilize emergency lights when piloting an oversized load or funeral. Generally speaking, a pilot vehicle is allowed to display a yellow or amber light to indicate to traffic that there may be a potential hazard on the road or highway that they need to watch out for.
Hawaii Revised Statute 291-28 mentions that a construction vehicle or truck needs to have a red light visible at 200 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight visible to the rear if they have a load that is four feet or greater past the end of their bed.
No other rules and regulations are indicated for construction vehicles. Generally, a construction vehicle will also have an amber light or yellow light that will illuminate to warn traffic of a potential safety hazard on the road or highway.
Funeral processions are not mentioned under any Hawaii State statures when it comes to LED lights or emergency lights. This does not mean that they are excluded. Generally, a funeral procession pilot vehicle is permitted to display a purple light or even a green light, but without any other indicators, it might be safe to assume that an amber light or yellow light is permissible. Please get in touch with your local municipalities for more clarity.
Emergency Lights On Personal Vehicles
Aside from what may be permitted for volunteer vehicles for the fire department or EMS, there are no indicators that emergency lights are allowed on personal vehicles.
With Hawaii law providing little to no information regarding the use of emergency lights, there is a lot of assuming required. This article is meant to solely be a starting point, and it is highly recommended that you contact your local municipalities for further guidance and clarity before installing and using LED lights on any vehicle for your fleet or personal use.