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Neon Signs on Emergency Road Vehicles

By: Simon McBride - Updated: 19 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Neon Lights Emergency Vehicles Road

It was widely believed up until recently that the majority of signs and lighting on emergency vehicles was made up of neon. This is actually an urban myth, Neon was used in a lot of manufacturer’s concept cars and road signs in the eighties and nineties but the fact of the matter is it was too expensive to be widely used as a lighting source for thousands of police vehicles.


Neon lamps were introduced into widespread production on the 1995 Ford Explorer but the tube was deemed too expensive and neon itself was also power-hungry and never really took off even though lighting giant Hella made Neon lights as an aftermarket addition.


Just as Neon was emerging so was a greater power in lighting, the LED. This is what powers the majority of lighting and signage on the UK’s emergency vehicles.

Blue Flashing lights

UK motorists should be aware that if a flashing blue is approaching your vehicle then one of the emergency crews are rushing to the scene of an incident. When on an emergency call-out the driver of the vehicle is legally exempt from certain motoring regulations.

Emergency Vehicles

The most common emergency vehicles in the UK are used by the Police, the Fire Brigade, the Ambulance Service, Doctors, Mountain Rescue, the RNLI, HM Coastguard and the Highways Agency.

If an emergency vehicle from the Police, Fire Brigade or the Ambulance Service is on a ‘shout’ then the crews will usually warn motorists of their approach by flashing lights and the wail of their vehicles sirens.

When blue lights are in use, drivers of emergency vehicles can do the following:

  • Treat a red light in the same way, as a give way sign would be
  • Passing vehicles on either side of a keep left bollard
  • Motorway hard shoulder can be used as an emergency lane even if the emergency vehicle is driving against the direction of traffic
  • Driving faster than the speed limit (the Police, Fire and Ambulance services only are the only crews permitted to do this)

However, they cannot:

  • Travel the wrong way up a one-way street
  • Break a 'stop' or 'give way' without slowing
  • Disobey the instructions on a no-entry sign.
  • Ignore flashing signs at level crossings or fire stations
  • They should not cross a solid white line down the middle of the road except if they are passing a stationary vehicle, slow moving cyclist or horse, or a road maintenance vehicle).

Exceptional Circumstances

In exceptional circumstances the driver may break some of these rules and it is up to their professional judgement if they do so but they should never endanger other motorists or pedestrians in trying to reach their destination.

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Who told you Highways Agency were emergency vehicles? They'd like to think they were, certainly, but no-way! And the same goes for Doctors, (green beacons). I think you need to clarify some of the information you're portraying as fact.
The Prof - 5-Apr-12 @ 9:12 AM
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