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New York Emergency Vehicle Light Statutes

New York Emergency Vehicle Light Statutes


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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State Overview

The New York traffic law and emergency vehicle light statutes can be found on a variety of state websites, including New York’s official Department of Health website, as well as the state senate’s website. Before delving into the various statutes and regulations, it’s important to understand some basic definitions and concepts first. 

According to New York state law section 101, an authorized emergency vehicle is defined as any of the following:

–        Ambulance

–        Police vehicle

–        Fire vehicle

–        Civil emergency vehicle

–        Emergency ambulance service vehicle

–        Environmental response vehicle

–        Sanitation patrol vehicle

–        Hazardous materials vehicle

–        Ordinance disposal vehicle of the armed services of the U.S.

It’s also important to understand that there is a difference between emergency lighting and warning lights. They differ in color, and emergency lights are blue or red LED lights while warning lights typically are white or amber LED lights. The general rule of thumb is that an emergency vehicle is permitted the use of emergency lights, while a commericial motor vehicle is allotted the use of warning lights.

Law Enforcement Statutes

Police and Sheriff Vehicles

Police department vehicles and their corresponding permitted lighting are described in section 375.41 of the New York emergency vehicle light statutes. A law enforcement vehicle is allowed to use a combination of red and white lights on their way to an emergency. Blue lights can be used – rear facing. It can be one or it can be several of either emergency light color. However, only fire vehicles are permitted the use of these emergency lights additionally on the way back from an emergency. Section 375.41suggests that a siren with the right audible signal should be used by law enforcement vehicles. 

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Fire and EMT

Fire Trucks and Fire Chief SUVs

Fire trucks and fire chief SUVs are required to use a combination of flashing lights in white and red. There are no limitations according to section 375.41.They are to be placed on the top of the vehicles and are supposed to be used on the way to and from an emergency. Additionally, they must be visible a minimum of 500 feet away from another vehicle in normal conditions. 

Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles

Volunteer firefighters’ vehicles are permitted the use of blue light according to section 375.41. Unlike ambulance and EMT vehicles, it isn’t mentioned what kind of blue light is required – whether static or flashing/rotating. Volunteer firefighter vehicles are also considered an authorized emergency vehicle and are allowed the use of emergency lights during an emergency situation.

Ambulance and EMT Vehicles

According to traffic law section 375.41, volunteer ambulance vehicles are required to use a green light when driving to or from an emergency. Non-volunteer ambulance vehicles are allowed to use red lights as they are considered an authorized emergency vehicle. According to section 375.41, an authorized emergency vehicle is allowed the use of one or more red emergency lights, as well as certain white lights. These lights must be flashing or rotating lights. 

Contact Brooking so we may help you with the latest details for your state here.

Commercial and Amber Statutes

Security Vehicles

One amber light is allowed to be used on security vehicles as explained in section 375-3 (B). This light must be visible as far as 500 feet from the vehicle. This is also only allowed to be done during times of operation and not outside of the work hours of the driver of the security vehicle. 

Wreckers and Tow Trucks

In accordance with section 375-4 (B), a tow truck are allowed to use a combination of blue and amber lights. These must be placed on the back of the vehicle, and can only be actively used during commercial operations.


According to section 375-49 (B), every tractor should be equipped with warning lights that are white or amber, if manufactured after 1993. The lights should be used especially when the trailer part of the tractor is elevated. The section however does not specify where the light should be positioned, and if it should also be used in general situations to alert drivers of a slow-moving vehicle. 

Utility Vehicles

Utility vehicles are allowed the use of amber and/or white lights according to section 375-3 (B). Contact NY DOT for maintenance vehicle and escort vehicle requirements.

Special Permits

Special permits can be given by the police commissioner and businesses can request permits for an emergency operation, and commercial use as well. Kindly contact the New York Department of Transportation to learn more about their state statute requirements here.

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