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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The statutes are categorized in terms of different lighting – blue or red emergency lights. Amber lights are considered warning lights for reference. New Jersey statutes in regards to emergency lighting are relatively strict, while the statutes regarding warning lights are less restrictive.
An authorized emergency vehicle is defined as any vehicle used in official emergency situations by emergency personnel. Emergency and vehicle lights are important to alert traffic when a vehicle is moving slowly, standing still, or to alert of work being done on highways and other areas of high traffic. Otherwise, emergency lights are necessary to alert traffic that an emergency is undergoing and vehicles must move out of the way safely to allow for an emergency vehicle to pass by. New Jersey also has specific requirements as to what kind of situations will allow for flashing lights versus stationary lights.
Law Enforcement Statutes
Police and Sheriff Vehicles
The police, marshall, and sheriff all fall under law enforcement and therefore their vehicles are each considered an authorized emergency vehicle according to New Jersey emergency vehicle light statutes. According to the section 39:4.91 in the New Jersey emergency vehicle light statutes, law enforcement vehicles are permitted the use of red lights that must be visible from 500 feet in normal weather conditions. Law enforcement vehicles must also be using a siren when responding to emergency calls.
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Fire and EMT
Fire Trucks and Fire Chief SUVs
A fire truck and fire chief SUV are allowed the use of blue and red emergency lights according to sections 39:3 – 54.7. However, these lights may only be used in the event of a fire or other emergency as mentioned in sections 39:3 – 54.8. According to sections 39:3 – 54:7, emergency lights must be removable and can be attached to the individual’s vehicle or one of a family member. However, these lights are only allowed to be in use in the event of an emergency according to sections 39:3 – 54:8.
These emergency lights must be blue, can’t be larger than 7.5” in diameter, and not hold more than 51 candlepower and should be able to be controlled via a switch within the operating vehicle according to sections 39:3 – 54:8. In New Jersey, no more than two emergency lights are allowed to be used by volunteer firefighters. Should only one light be used, then it must be placed in the middle of the roof of the vehicle, on the left of the windshield, or on the front of the car. This is in accordance with sections 39:3 – 54:10.
Should two lights be used, they can be placed on either side of the windshield, or on either side of the roof. Something that will result in penalties is if one light is placed on the roof, while the other is on one of the sides of the windshield. This is simply not allowed and the resulting penalty would be up to $50 in accordance with sections 39:3 – 54:13.
Fire Chiefs and Fire Assistant Chiefs from volunteer fire departments are also allotted the use of red emergency lights as explained in sections 39:3 – 54.15, and are considered an authorized emergency vehicle. The statutes also explain that emergency vehicles do not have to adhere to the posted speed limit in an emergency situation and can disregard normal non-emergency traffic laws.
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Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles
The New Jersey laws regarding volunteer firefighter vehicles are somewhat similar to a fire truck and fire chief SUV. At a volunteer firefighter company, volunteer firefighter vehicles are allowed the use of blue emergency lights, and volunteer fire chiefs are allowed the use of red emergency lights. As mentioned, the use of emergency lights is restricted only during an event of an emergency and not when off duty.
Ambulance and EMT Vehicles
Ambulance and EMT vehicles fall under the same category as volunteer firefighter vehicles and firefighter vehicles. An ambulance and EMT vehicle is considered an authorized emergency vehicle. Flashing blue emergency lights are allowed in emergency situations, yet they are not allowed to be used outside of the said emergency situation. Specific placement is the same as for fire trucks and volunteer firefighter vehicles.
Commercial and Amber Statutes
Wreckers and Tow Trucks
A tow truck is allowed to use amber lights as described in Section 39:4-92.2. White lights are also permitted according to Section 39:3-50. New Jersey law states that the use of flashing white or amber lights is allowed in order to notify oncoming or passing traffic of either slow or stopped vehicles. Flashing lights are mainly supposed to be used by stationary tow trucks.
Tractors according to sections 39:3-61.1 require the use of clearance lamps, two lamps, and two reflectors. There is no mention of the use of warning lights with tractors. The operator of a tractor could apply for a permit for the use of amber lights, however, there is no statute that specifically allows for the use of amber lights.
Utility vehicles are allowed the use of amber warning lights according to section 39:3-54.24 when used on the highway for official purposes. They must be removable, controllable by a switch, and can’t be larger than 7.5” in diameter. The light must be very clearly visible and put on the top of the roof of the utility vehicle. In order to use the amber warning lights, a $25 initial fee must be paid and then paid again every consecutive year when applying for the permit to use the warning lights. This payment is required per utility vehicle.
Construction vehicles are also allowed the use of amber lights but must be procured through a permit according to section 39:3-54.24. The statute specifically also references vehicles used for highway maintenance. Permits can be acquired by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Each permit is associated with a fee of $25. The lights are only allowed to be used during the actual construction process, and not outside of official use. Besides the amber lights, construction vehicles are encouraged to use hazard lights.
New Jersey has much more limited and strict use of emergency lights and does not allow for funeral processions to use the emergency lights. The laws regarding funeral processions are limited to the length of time for a procession and who has the right of way. This is in accordance with sections 39:4 – 93. One can assume that since it isn’t listed under the vehicles allowed to use emergency lights in sections 13:24 – 2.4, that it is simply not legally allowed. Contact the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to learn more.
Emergency Lights on Personal Vehicles
Nowhere in the New Jersey emergency vehicle light statutes is mention of personal vehicles being allowed the use of emergency lights. In fact, it is very clearly stated in sections 13:24 – 2.4 that outside of emergency personnel and manufacturers of said emergency lights, no one is is allowed to use the lights. Do not use any emergency lights for personal use – avoid being penalized.
Special permits are granted based on whether or not the individual is of emergency personnel and the vehicle will be operating in emergency situations, as in accordance with sections 13:24 – 2.4. The only other exception, who can be issued a permit, is an organization manufacturing the emergency lights. Beyond these two categories, no civilians are able to operate and use emergency lights on their personal vehicles.
That being said, a permit can be acquired for use of amber lights. The determinants and requirements for amber light permits seem to be more relaxed and many can apply for the use of amber lights, including vehicles used for snow removal, school buses, construction vehicles, utility and sanitation vehicles, among others.