This article discusses ongoing research on emergency vehicle warning light systems.
Automobile crashes and related highway accidents are the second-leading cause of on-duty death for both law enforcement officers and firefighters nationwide. In an effort to reduce officer deaths, Federal agencies are combining resources to fund a research project on emergency vehicle warning lights that studies effective ways to mitigate the disorientation effect for motorists caused by emergency lighting. An initial study has been completed by the National Institute of Justice Personal Protection Equipment Technology Working Group, involving the examination of crash data for fire apparatus, and analyzing incidents when firefighters were struck and killed on, or near, a road where the use of emergency lighting may have been a factor. Results from this operational study were detailed in an April 2007 report entitled, "Effects of Warning Lamps on Pedestrian Visibility and Driver Behavior," and is available at www.sae.org/-standardsdev/tsb/cooperative/nblighting.pdf. Initial findings of the report included: personnel wearing retro-reflective clothing mitigated visibility disorientation for motorists, and blue colored lamps provided a good combination of effects for better motorist visibility. Further research will examine how to better use and design technology while incorporating successful operating practices to effectively mitigate motorist disorientations.