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QFL Syndrome: How Many Emergency Warning Lights Are Enough?

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2000 Pages: 30-34
John Hoffmann
Date Published
February 2000
5 pages
This article considers how many emergency warning lights should be installed on police vehicles.
While the National Fire Protection Association has lighting standards for fire trucks and ambulances, there are none for police vehicles. This gives individual police departments flexibility, but improper use of lights or inappropriate choice of devices can cause problems. One after-market adaptation to make a vehicle’s brake lights flash resulted in the shift-lock device disengaging, allowing the vehicle to move forward. One such incident resulted in the deaths of two people. The article discusses headlights that flash when the rooftop light bar is turned on and possible negative aspects, i.e., they are distracting to the officer and can create a strobe effect. In addition, flashing headlights could blind other motorists. Some police officials consider the light bar on the top of the car as the primary warning device; anything else is secondary. A manufacturer of lighting products, concerned about misuse of the devices, claims that officers should treat priority lighting the same way they treat sirens: once the vehicle is stopped, turn off the special lights.