This question comes from an event first aider in NSW:
I attend many events which require me to respond in my vehicle ” a medical response vehicle”. I’m required to display warning lights. The hundred dollar question is what colour light? I spoke to the RTA people; I can’t use amber as I don’t fit their criterion. I can’t use red and Blue as I’m not an emergency vehicle. I can’t use red only because I’m not St John or blood bank; in fact sir you can’t use any lights at all sorry. What about cams requirement to respond I need warning lights? Can spare me a minute and clarify please.
There is little to clarify. The fact that CAMS (the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports) may want you to have warning lights is irrelevant. They are not the law maker. The rules are clear and are set out in Schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 (NSW). Rule 124(2) says, amongst other things, that a ‘vehicle must not display or be fitted with: (a) a light that flashes or rotates …’. There are of course exceptions. Rule 124(4) sets out the sort of vehicles that can be fitted with flashing lights. Rules 124(7) identifies the relevant colours.
Combining those two rules we see that the vehicles listed in column 1 can be fitted with a flashing light of the colour show in column 2.
|Column 1||Column 2|
|ambulances,||A blue or red light|
|police vehicles,||A blue or red light|
|fire fighting vehicles,||A blue or red light
Fire brigade emergency site command vehicle – A green light
|mines rescue or other rescue vehicles,||A vehicle used by an accredited rescue unit (within the meaning of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 ) – A blue or red light
A mines rescue or other rescue vehicle – A red light
|Red Cross vehicles used for conveyance of blood for urgent transfusions,||A red light|
|public utility service vehicles,||A yellow light|
|tow-trucks,||A yellow light|
|motor breakdown service vehicles,||A yellow light|
|vehicles used for the delivery of milk that are required to stop at frequent intervals,||A yellow light|
|buses used solely or principally for the conveyance of children to or from school,||A yellow light|
|vehicles exceeding the length, width and height limits of this Schedule,||A yellow light|
|vehicles frequently used to transport loads that exceed the maximum length, width and height limits of this Schedule,||A yellow light|
|vehicles used to escort vehicles referred to in paragraph (k) or (l),||A yellow light|
|vehicles used by the Authority,||Traffic commander or Traffic Emergency patroller – A blue or red light.
Other vehicles used by the authority – A crimson light
|vehicles used by an employee of a council of a local government area for the purposes of enforcing excess weight limits legislation,||A crimson light|
|State Emergency Service vehicles,||A blue or red light|
|such other vehicles as are approved by the Authority.||An emergency vehicle within the meaning of the Road Rules 2014 (other than those identified above) – A red light|
The Roads and Maritime Services can give approval for any vehicle to display warning lights of any colour but we can’t identify what if any authorities have been granted.
It should be noted that these rules only apply to the extent that the vehicle is being used on a road or road related area (Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) ss 4 and 5). Without going into those definitions in detail one might infer that if the area in which the vehicle is operating is not ‘open to or used by the public’ (such as a designated race track, including roads that have been closed to allow a race to operate) then these rules won’t apply. Having said that, deciding whether any particular track was, or was not a ‘road’ would have to be determined in each case and I’m not saying that any particular track is, or is not, a ‘road’ for the purposes of these rules.
If my correspondent’s vehicles don’t fit any of the descriptions, above, then they can’t be fitted with or display flashing warning lights unless there is specific approval from RMS. The fact that CAMS want them to have warning lights may be a relevant consideration for the RMS when deciding to give permission but does not impact on the rules set out above.
If the vehicle is being used on a race track that is not a road or road related area then the rules do not apply but if a vehicle was fitted with warning lights, they would have to be removed before it was again driven on a public road.
Following further discussion, it’s worth putting the consequences in context. As explained above the rules say that ‘a vehicle must not display or be fitted with: (a) a light that flashes or rotates…’
This begs the question of what does ‘fitted’ mean. In land law, a thing permanently affixed to premises is a ‘fitting’. On another forum, I’ve seen it suggested that something is ‘fitted’ to a vehicle if it is connected to the vehicles power supply. Applying those concepts one could infer that where there is a specially designed vehicle where the warning lights are incorporated into the design and ‘hard wired’ into the vehicles power with an installed instrument panel, then that is ‘fitted’. A flashing light that operates on its own batteries and is held in place by a magnetic base is not ‘fitted’. In between are lights for example with a magnetic base or on a roof rack, but taking power from the 12v power outlet from the vehicle.
It is not clear what is meant when the rules say ‘a vehicle must not display … a light that flashes’. ‘Display’ must be something different to fitted, so a vehicle may ‘display’ a flashing light that is not ‘fitted’. One can infer then that having a light on or in the vehicle and switched on is to ‘display’ the light. If one had a light that operated with its own batteries, one could avoid that by simply putting the light on the road, rather than on the vehicle.
Whatever these terms mean, if a vehicle is displaying or has a flashing light ‘fitted’ then the vehicle is a ‘defective registrable vehicle’ as it does not comply with the standards set out in the regulations (Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) s 4). The consequence is that a police officer could issue a defect notice (s 76). It is not an offence to have those lights or to display them. It is only an offence to use to use a vehicle contrary to a defect notice (s 77) so an offence is only committed if a defect notice is issued and not complied with. If the light is displayed, but not fitted, one could avoid that by simply turning it off.
I thought there was a difference between driving with the lights and parked and using the lights as a warning?
Luke, it really does depend on the jurisdiction. NSW says that a vehicle must not be fitted or display flashing lights, so having the lights ‘fitted’ whatever that means is illegal, whether they are on or not. In Western Australia, the rules say that a vehicle msut not ‘display’ a light that flashes, but it does not say that the light may not be ‘fitted’ – see Yellow flashing lights on a private vehicle in WA (April 6, 2017).
Gees you legal people make it hard!!!
We wouldn’t be worth the money if we didn’t.
Good Afternoon Michael,
Can you please explain how the above effects Queensland; in particular, mines rescue vehicles (owned and operated by the mine). If a mines rescue member had the right training, & the qualification: ‘drive under operational conditions’, would this person be able to respond to, let’s say, a mutual aid emergency call from another mine site on public roads?
In addition, does it make any difference if the emergency lights have clear covers, so when the light is not activated it is impossible to determine the colour?
Thanks for this question, I’ve answered it as a separate post – see More on emergency lights on Qld vehicles (July 13, 2017).
I’m confused as to why the question – and the response – refer to requiring approval from RMS for amber flashing lights. The VSI document currently linked from the RMS site explicitly states:
> There is no need to obtain approval from the RTA to fit amber/yellow flashing lights to vehicles.
Click to access vsi-08-flashing-lights-and-sirens.pdf
YS the statement ‘There is no need to obtain approval from the RTA to fit amber/yellow flashing lights to vehicles’ has to be read in context. As noted in this post Schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 (NSW) used to set out who can have flashing lights and of what colour. There is a list of those that could, under that regulation, have yellow lights set out in the post above. The 2007 regulation has been repealed and replaced with the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW). It is now r 114(2) that says ‘unless subrule (3) or (4) applies, a vehicle must not display or be fitted with: (a) a light that flashes or rotates…’ It is still the case that you cannot put a flashing yellow light on any vehicle.
Today r 114(4) says what vehicles can be fitted with a flashing or rotating light and r 114(5) says what colour those lights may be. Again, putting those two rules together, we can see that the following vehicles can have a yellow light: public utility service vehicles, tow-trucks, motor breakdown service vehicles, vehicles used for the delivery of milk that are required to stop at frequent intervals, buses used solely or principally for the conveyance of children to or from school, vehicles exceeding the length, width and height limits, vehicles frequently used to transport loads that exceed the maximum length, width and height limits. vehicles used to escort long, wide or high loads. The rule to require street vending vehicles to have a yellow light is r 114B.
That is also what the document you have referred to says. It also lists those vehicles that can be fitted with a yellow or amber lights (remembering it was written in 2010 and so is not referring to the current, 2017, regulations). It then says ‘There is no need to obtain approval from the RTA to fit amber/yellow flashing lights to vehicles’. Perhaps to be clearer it should say ‘There is no need to obtain approval from the RTA to fit amber/yellow flashing lights to [those] vehicles [listed above]’.
One category of vehicles that can have yellow flashing lights is ‘other vehicles that are approved by the Authority’ (r 114(4)(q)). It is axiomatic that if you are operating a vehicle that is not authorised to be fitted with a yellow light (r 114(4) and 114(5)) then you can only have a yellow light if ‘approved by the authority’. To be approved one would need to request and ‘obtain’ that approval.
In short vehicles that are listed in r 114 and r 115 as being authorised to have a yellow light do not need to seek approval. If my vehicle is a tow truck, then I don’t need to seek separate approval (ie separate to the process of registering it as a tow truck and getting tow truck number plates (Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 (NSW) s 57 and Tow Truck Industry Regulation 2008 (NSW) r 44 ‘Tow truck equipment’) to put a yellow light on it; equally if I regularly use my vehicle as a wide load escort or pilot vehicle then I don’t need to seek approval. If my vehicle is not listed in regulations 114 and 115, then I do need to seek the approval of the authority to fit a yellow light.
If the document was meant to imply that there is ‘no need to obtain approval from the RTA to fit amber/yellow flashing lights to [any] vehicle’ then it would be wrong. The RMS (formerly RTA) document is meant to be a guide to interpretation of the law but it is not the law and the terms of the regulations prevail. The regulations say no vehicle is to be fitted with a flashing light (Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) r 114(2)) unless there is an exemption. Only a vehicle with an exemption, not any vehicle, can have a yellow light regardless of what this RMS document says.
So, I can already guess the answer, but just for arguments sake:
In NSW, a police officer is always a police officer, regardless of whether on or off duty, and thus has the power to pull over and speak to (and charge, if need be) any driver that significantly endangers the rest of the people on the road.
Now, from what I can gather, the recommended practice for police off duty is to do 1 of 4 things: let it go, ring PAL, take note of the rego and deal with it next shift, or step in. The 4th option pretty much never happens when you’re driving. If police were able to have warning lights and sirens fitted to their private vehicles (making them basically an “unmarked police car”) it would be possible to mitigate some danger in the 4th option, making it available when the other 3 options don’t cut it.
Furthermore, lockup keepers would be able to respond immediately rather than having to drive to the station first.
What’s the legality for these situations?
It is illegal to fit red and blue flashing lights to a private car. If we take NSW for example, rule 114 of Schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) (the Light Vehicle Standards Rules) says, inter alia, that a police vehicle may be fitted with flashing lights. A police vehicle is ‘a vehicle driven by:… (b) a member, however described, of the Police Force of a State or Territory…acting in the course of his or her duty’. It would therefore be incumbent upon the police Commissioner to define it as part of their duty to have and use those lights when otherwise ‘off duty’. Whilst it is the case that a constable is always a constable he or she is not always on duty as a police officer. If the Commissioner determined that part of his or her duty was to be able to respond in his or her private car then it could be that those lights could be fitted but it still not the case that a police officer could fit them on his or her own initiative. Unless the Commissioner says that it is part of a constables duty to respond in a private car then it is not part of his or her duty and they cannot have red/blues on a private car (in the same way agencies like the RFS have said it is no part of a member’s duty to respond to a station in response to a pager message)
The answer is you cannot put reds and blues or a siren on a private car.
Good evening gentlemen
I run a slip-on fire fighter all fire season. I’d like to have Red lights mounted to the slip-on to be used only whilst in the act of fire fighting. I am a trained crew leader/advanced fire fighter in the RFS. I read the following as permission to have red (only) flashing lights fitted. Not unlike NSW Parks and wildlife that cannot respond and use red only for fire fighting.
Vehicle standards information
PUBLISHED 24 NOVEMBER 2010 | REV. 4.1
Other emergency vehicles not referenced above that are driven by an emergency worker in the course of their duties, where an ‘emergency worker’ is a person (or one of a class of persons) approved by the RTA.
A red flashing light warns road users of the presence of a vehicle associated with a risk-to-life situation. It must only be used when the vehicle is being used for urgent purposes arising from an accident, fire or other emergency.
That is the way I read it, I would love some of your comments.
It’s not ‘gentlemen’ – there’s only one of me.
You can’t put emergency lights on your private vehicle. The Vehicle standards information (rev. 4.1) published 24 November 2010 is out of date. It refers to repealed regulations. The relevant regulation today is the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW). The light vehicle standards rules are set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulation.
First, a vehicle must not be fitted with a flashing light or a light that shows red to the front of the vehicle (r 114(2)) unless provided for in the regulation. Fire fighting vehicles may be fitted with red or blue lights (and that can be read as red and blue) (rr 114(4) and 114(7)(a)). What is a ‘fire fighting’ vehicle is not defined. It cannot however be the case that it is up to an individual to define their vehicle is a ‘fire fighting’ vehicle else anyone could buy or modify their vehicle and then claim the right to put red/blue lights on their vehicle.
Second, ‘an emergency vehicle within the meaning of the Road Rules 2014 (other than a vehicle referred to in paragraph (a)) may be fitted with a red flashing light (r 114(7)(b)). The Road Rules 2014 (NSW) define an emergency vehicle as a vehicle being driven by an emergency worker in the course of his or her duties as an emergency worker. An emergency worker is ‘a member of a fire or rescue service operated by a NSW Government agency’ and therefore the NSW RFS. That would lend support to the interpretation that a fire fighting vehicle is a vehicle a vehicle operated by the government fire services. In any event, the fact that you are a member of the RFS does not mean that using a slip-on fire fighter on your private vehicle is part of your duties as a member of the RFS. That is a matter for the RFS to determine but without their support one could not say that when operating a private vehicle particularly if not part of an RFS response that this is an emergency vehicle within the meaning of the Road Rules.
Sorry about the gentlemen comment. Thanks for your reply.
Hello Mr Eburn
A question that I have been pondering for a while relates to the use of the word “or” in the context of “Red or Blue” as described in your response above.
Its a bit off the original topic, but any ambulance has these colours operating at the same time in NSW (& Vic) then is it true that they are not complying to the letter of the law?
‘or’ implies ‘and’ – see https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/210596/is-it-correct-to-use-or-in-place-of-and-or given that the use of red lights does not necessarily exclude blue. So the term ‘red or blue’ allows red only, blue only or red and blue.
Is this legislation still the same?
If i wanted to Outfit a private vehicle with amber / white flashing LED’s in NSW, would I be allowed to do so?
The relevant legislation is no longer the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 (NSW); it is now the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) but the effect is the same.
No vehicle is permitted to have ‘a light that flashes or rotates’ unless either Schedule 2, r 114(3) or (4) applies. The following vehicles can have a yellow flashing light – public utility service vehicles, tow-trucks, motor breakdown service vehicles, vehicles used for the delivery of milk that are required to stop at frequent intervals, buses used solely or principally for the conveyance of children to or from school, vehicles exceeding the length, width and height limits of these rules, vehicles frequently used to transport loads that exceed the maximum length, width and height limits of these rules, vehicles used to escort vehicles referred to in paragraph (k) or (l), some vehicles used by the Authority, other vehicles that are approved by the Authority (Schedule 2, r 114(4)) and street vending vehicles (r 114B).
No vehicle other than an emergency vehicle or police vehicle may be fitted a light that shows white to the rear (r 114(2) and (3)).
So no, you cannot have white flashing LEDs unless your vehicle is an emergency vehicle or police vehicle. You can have yellow if your vehicle is one of the types of vehicles described above. Alternatively, you can have white or yellow flashing LEDs if you have approval from Transport for NSW.
Dear Dr Eburn,
Thank you for your ongoing efforts in clarifying this area of the law.
Do you know whether schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) applies to non-functioning (i.e. fake) lights?
I would like to fit a roof mounted light bar (fleet/emergency vehicle style, not a rectangle of LEDs) on my vehicle purely for aeshetic purposes. The lightbar would be non-functioning, so far arguments sake assume that the LEDs themselves are removed, leaving just the coloured plastic housing.
I cannot see a definition of “light” in the Regulation. It doesn’t seem to me that it ought to apply to something that resembles a light but cannot function as one (see r 70A). To avoid appearing to impersonate an emergency vehicle, the light bar housing would be amber (not red or blue).
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
I won’t attempt to comment on the rules regarding protrusions and other rules, looking just at r 114 of Schedule 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) which refers to ‘lights’. A ‘roof mounted light bar’ with no lights on it is not a ‘light’ so would not run foul of that particular rule. But one does have to ask ‘why would you want to?’
Ah well, I suppose it’s not worth the inveitable argument with a police officer or magistrate. Thank you for your quick response!