The variety of colors of emergency vehicle lights – and what they signify – can be confusing, especially for motorhomers who travel from state to state.
Police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances use flashing, rotating, or oscillating lights to notify their approach to other motorists. Tow trucks, utility trucks, funeral lead cars, and other vehicles also use distinguishing lights.
Max Durbin, chairman of FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Advisory Committee, said the lack of uniformity of lens colors used by these vehicles can be unsafe. “Motorhomers and other motorists are unable to immediately detect what type of vehicle is approaching and whether they have a legal right-of-way.”
Frank Brodersen, a member of the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee, looked into the emergency lighting issue. He contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and various police departments, departments of motor vehicles, and departments of transportation. He also exchanged information with manufacturers and distributors of emergency lighting.
From those sources, he developed the following information.
LACK OF UNIFORMITY. There is no national standard for visual warning devices. Each state may establish its own laws or administrative rules.
Flashing or oscillating red/blue lights always identify emergency vehicles, even when used in conjunction with other colors. For instance, emergency vehicles may display red/blue lights frequently used in combination with amber or white lights.
WHEN TO YIELD. While lighting combinations vary across jurisdictions, red/blue always indicates an emergency vehicle. And one thing is certain: you must yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO), an independent, privately funded group, has written emergency vehicle ordinances that are used in approximately 40 states. Here is NCUTLO’s recommendation concerning yielding to an emergency vehicle: when an emergency vehicle approaches, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection. Stop if it is safe to do so, and remain in such position until the emergency vehicle has passed.
AMBER LIGHTS. Amber warning lights, visible from either the front or rear of vehicles, are often used by construction or work vehicles. Utility trucks (electric, gas, water), cable/phone companies, and state highway maintenance vehicles also display amber lights.
As a rule of thumb, it’s not necessary to yield to vehicles displaying only amber lights. However, amber lights used in conjunction with red (as on the rear of school buses), indicate that you must stop and not pass until the red lights are turned off.
In any case, amber lighting should alert you to hazards, stopped traffic, or a slow-moving vehicle. Exercise caution, drive courteously, and be alert for unsafe conditions.
WORKING ZONES. Amber lights used in conjunction with bright orange warning signs indicate a “hazardous” situation. An example is a highway construction or work zone. Ignoring the posted speed limit where amber lights are used with orange signage can be both deadly and costly.
Enforcing the speed limits in hazardous work zones is a goal of all states. Many motorhome travelers are familiar with the national “give them a brake” campaign. Motorists who do not reduce their speed in work zones could face substantial fines and/or time in jail.
SUMMARY. Emergency vehicle signals and laws vary across jurisdictions, so always check with the state police, highway patrol, or department of public safety for laws specific to your area of travel. Here’s a general summary:
Red/blue: Emergency vehicle. You must yield.
Amber with bright orange signage: Hazardous conditions. Obey posted limits.
Amber with red: Vehicles that frequently stop, such as school buses. Do not pass them when red lights are flashing.
It’s important to know that many U.S. states have enacted “move over” laws, which require motorists to move over and slow down for authorized emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the highway.
The laws are designed to protect police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and other emergency personnel from passing motorists.
Move-over laws vary by state, but general stipulations include:
1. When traveling on multilane highways and in the direction of an emergency vehicle that has its emergency lights activated, drivers must vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, as soon as it is safe to do so.
2. On two-lane highways, drivers must slow to a speed below the posted limit and be prepared to stop.
Failure to obey move-over laws may result in a citation and a fine.
SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA, RV PARKING
In March the Santa Paula RV Advisory Committee passed a motion, by a 3-2 vote, to permit RV parking and storage on residential property with “conforming” and “non-conforming” provisions. City council will have final say on the matter.
The RV committee recommended conditional RV parking and storage for residents unable to meet the conforming requirements. This would be time-limited and fee-based.
The committee’s suggestions:
Conforming RV parking restricted for RVs less than 8 feet high: RV parking and storage on residential property must conform to city ordinances with regard to safe, clear lines of sight for motorists and public safety.
1. The RV must be parked in a driveway or residential paved area.
2. Screening from public (street) view must be a maximum of 6 feet high to comply with city code.
3. An approved RV cover must be used.
4. RVs will be permitted to be uncovered only during loading/unloading or maintenance checks or to provide a temporary living space for the property owners or visitors.
Non-conforming RV parking will be considered for RVs taller than 8 feet:
1. The City may permit a non-conforming RV for a period of five to seven years. A permit will be issued through simple application and will carry a fee comparable to that of a low-cost RV storage facility. The fee will be set by city council based on survey of RV storage fees.
2. RV owners must comply with the city ordinance regarding safe, clear line of sight for motorists and public safety.
3. The RV must be parked in a driveway or residential paved area.
4. Screening from public (street) view must be a maximum of 6 feet high to comply with city code.
5. An approved RV cover must be used.
6. RVs will be permitted to be uncovered only during loading/unloading or maintenance checks or to provide a temporary living space for the property owners or visitors.
1. If an RV does not fit behind the safe, line-of-sight triangle areas, the owner may apply for a special permit from the city, and the city will assess the safety of the parking situation.
2. The current requirement for screening of RVs in side yards may be waived if an owner receives written consent from the side and rear neighbors.
3. The current requirement for front screening of RVs in side yards will be limited to a maximum of 6 feet high to comply with city code.
Council weighs recommendations. Santa Paula City Council reviewed the RV committee recommendations as a main agenda item at its April 2 meeting. One council member used the RV committee’s recommendations to provide a 10-point concept that could allow residential RV parking, with safety and neighborhood aesthetics a major factor.
Two council members expressed support for a waiver concept, instead of a permit process, for RV owners who require additional parking considerations. Council voted 5-0 to form an ad hoc committee to complete this concept and draft a new RV ordinance.
Editor’s note: This report was submitted by FMCA member Gerald Olivas, who served on the Santa Paula RV committee.
OREGON DEALER SALES
FMCA members’ efforts helped to curtail legislation that would have reduced the chances of FMCA holding area rallies and international conventions in Oregon.
Participation of out-of-state dealers is integral to the success of FMCA area rallies and conventions. That’s why Senate Bill 566 caught the attention of FMCA – and others in the RV industry.
At the request of some Oregon RV dealers, SB 566 originally contained a provision requiring any RV dealer selling in Oregon to maintain a permanent repair facility in the state. This provision was moved to House Bill 2758, a bill that also addresses dealer warranty service issues.
At an April 11 House committee hearing, FMCA members Frank Brodersen and Jim Phillips, and several RV industry representatives, testified against the provision. As a result, Mr. Brodersen said, that section of the amended HB 2758 was removed.
WYOMING OUT-OF-STATE DEALER PERMITS
The Wyoming legislature has passed a bill that allows out-of-state RV dealers to purchase temporary RV display and sales permits. The bill has been signed into law by the governor and will take effect July 1, 2007.
The law makes Wyoming a potential site for future FMCA rallies and international conventions, as these events are predicated on the participation of out-of-state dealers.
The legislation requires out-of-state dealers not currently licensed in the state to submit an application and a $500 permit fee at least 90 days prior to the RV-related event. The permit is valid for up to seven straight days, and non-Wyoming dealers are limited to three permits per year.
Additional fees: $50 for two temporary RV demo plates and $5 for 10 temporary permits for issuance to purchasers of RVs at the event.
Prior to selling an RV to a Wyoming resident, an out-of-state dealer must notify the buyer, in writing, of the location of the manufacturer-authorized service facility nearest to the event.
WISCONSIN OUT-OF-STATE DEALER SALES
As of April 25, no official action had been taken on the proposed rule that would prohibit non-Wisconsin RV dealers from selling vehicles in the state. If approved by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, dealers without permanent facilities in the state would be banned from conducting in-person sales.
Legislative Updates is a periodic column compiled by FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee “” Max Durbin, chairman “” and Todd Moning, FMCA.com Web editor. Contact the committee through FMCA’s Membership Department, (800) 543-3622; e-mail [email protected]. Remember to visit our Web site for regular updates: www.fmca.com/motorhomerights.