Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
#1
Old 12-23-2003, 09:55 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 1,793
What Does the Flashing Yellow Light on Top of Trucks, etc. Mean?

This is a traffic question, but one I have wondered about for some time now for reasons I will shortly get into. We all know what it means when a vehicle has a flashing red (signifying emergency) or flashing blue (signifying police) light on its vehicle. It means let it pass and let it thru the intersection (even if the light is green for you). But what does the flashing yellow mean exactly? Yes, I know it means hazard and slow/fast moving vehicle and all that. But what does it allow the vehicle to do, and what specifically are other motorists supposed to do when they see this?

The reason why I ask is, a while back, when ambulances for animals became more common where I live, I noticed they only could have a flashing yellow light on top of their vehicle. And I have wondered for the longest time what this specifically entitled them to do. Obviously it was not the intention of lawmakers to let them have right of way thru red-lights and the like, naturally. But what advantages, if any, did a flashing yellow give them? Whatever the advantage, it would seem tow trucks and snow plows have the same priviledges.

__________________
"Love takes no less than everything." (from "Love Is", a duet by Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight)
#2
Old 12-23-2003, 10:22 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Suburbs of Detroit, MI
Posts: 9,859
Construction vehicles and hearses usually have flashing yellow lights, too.

I don't think that flashing yellow lights have any purpose other than to make people notice you. I've heard that anyone can put them their vehicle (at least in my state). My boss has one on top of his pickup truck. It's lame as hell, but who's gonna say anything to him?
#3
Old 12-23-2003, 10:23 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tysons Corner, VA, USA
Posts: 12,000
Only bona fide emergency vehicles can have red or blue lights (the details may vary by jurisdiction). I think just about any vehicle can have a flashing yellow light to indicate caution (tow trucks, delivery vans, whatever). Having a yellow light gives confers no special status or priveleges, though some vehicles may have special advantages by virtue of their mission rather than the light. For example, a tow truck can service a car on the shoulder when considered an emergency. But private security cars sport yellow lights, although AFAIK they don't have any special rights.

Once I called the police because I saw a tow truck blatantly running a red light to get to an accident. They confirmed that he had no legal right to do so but probably wouldn't do anything unless a police officer had seen it.
__________________
Making the world a better place one fret at a time.
| | |會 |會 |會 |會 | |:| | |會 |會
#4
Old 12-23-2003, 10:26 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Decatur, Illinois, USA
Posts: 14,041
In Illinois, at least, the yellow light doesn't entitle the snowplow, tow truck, or whatever, to any special treatment from other motorists, other than, "yo, watch out for the frickin' snowplow". Cite: Driver's Ed class, 1972.

And I've never seen tow trucks or snowplows or other Decatur city vehicles with yellow lights go through red lights. They have to sit there and wait just like the rest of us, nyah.

But funeral processions do go through red lights, but that's a function of them being "funeral processions", not anything to do with rights entailed by having a yellow light on top of the car in front.
#5
Old 12-23-2003, 10:27 PM
BANNED
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 8,820
what does the yellow light mean?

slow down!



whhhhaaaaaattttttt

#6
Old 12-23-2003, 10:27 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 11,783
A while back, I had a truck with a snowplow, and I asked a policeman friend about the need for a yellow flashing light. He told me that I should install one and use it only when plowing - it signified that I was an encumbered vehicle that others should avoid. He specifically noted that the flashing light did not give me any special privileges, and that it was not to be used in normal vehicle operations. (Though he seemed to know his stuff, note that this was only one cop in one location.)

This advice contrasts with how yellow lights are often used. Some drivers seem to think that having one makes them a sort of "junior cop", entitled to deference from other motorists. Perhaps this is true in some locations, though I'm skeptical.
#7
Old 12-23-2003, 10:31 PM
Guest
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Voting anti-obamanation
Posts: 10,300
The significance of light colors vary widely from state to state.

In PA: I run blue lights as a firefighter.

In TN: Police use blue lights.

In NM: Tow trucks use blue lights.

In PA: Yellow is used by tow trucks and construction vehicles.

Yellow basically means-beware of slow moving vehicle, which may stop suddenly. (Or in PA- make no noise- 6 PENNDOT workers asleep inside)
__________________
Crows. Keeping our highways clear of roadkill for over 80 years
#8
Old 12-23-2003, 10:46 PM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Suburbs of Detroit, MI
Posts: 9,859
They actually let them sleep in Pennsylvania, eh?

Here in Michigan, the MDOT guys are required to stand around and try to look like they might do something eventually
#9
Old 12-23-2003, 11:18 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Hamilton, ON
Posts: 204
In Ontario, Hydro (electric) vehicles have Yellow lights.

We got a truck once with FLASHING RED lights.

Police stopped that REAL quick.

in ONTARIO, Flashing Blue (alone) is Snow Removal.

Flashing Blue and Red is Police

Green is Volunteer Firefighter (On way to station)

Flashing Purple (Yes, PURPLE) is funeral

(Or Prince is in the neighbourhood)
#10
Old 12-23-2003, 11:23 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 9,335
In Cheektowaga, blue lights apparently mean "the donuts are getting cold."

In blue-collar suburbs of Buffalo, where it seems like every other person is a volunteer fireman, you'll see blue lights mounted on everything from minivans to old Geos. I've seen quite a bit of abuse, too ... a flashing blue light, a Buick Century running past a red light, and turning into the parking lot of a donut shop or Greek diner.
#11
Old 12-23-2003, 11:26 PM
Member
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Lexington NC
Posts: 7,153
I have never seen a flashing light on a hearse.
#12
Old 12-23-2003, 11:35 PM
Member
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 27,573
Flashing blue on police vehicles in Ontario? I have never seen that.
__________________
Rigardu, kaj vi ekvidos.
Look, and you will begin to see.
#13
Old 12-24-2003, 12:55 AM
Guest
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: WNY
Posts: 176
Quote:
Originally posted by elmwood
In Cheektowaga, blue lights apparently mean "the donuts are getting cold."

In blue-collar suburbs of Buffalo, where it seems like every other person is a volunteer fireman, you'll see blue lights mounted on everything from minivans to old Geos. I've seen quite a bit of abuse, too ... a flashing blue light, a Buick Century running past a red light, and turning into the parking lot of a donut shop or Greek diner.

Up here it freaks people out from other states. The cop cars (Sheriff, State Trooper, etc) have all red lights. Most other states' police have some amount of blue, or all blue, with all red reserved for emergency (fire) vehicles. My friends from Virginia are always asking me "why is that Fire Chief pulling someone over?"
#14
Old 12-24-2003, 12:56 AM
Guest
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: WNY
Posts: 176
Quote:
Originally posted by Reeder
I have never seen a flashing light on a hearse.

It's new-ish. Check out the newer hearses. And the ones I've seen are dashboard mounted, not up on top like the Ghostbuster mobile.
#15
Old 12-24-2003, 02:59 AM
Guest
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Canada
Posts: 33
Snowclearing equipment around here has orange and/or blue strobes. Most of the ones I see with blue only are the little tractors that clean the sidewalks. (bobcat?)

Only police vehicles get red and blue, fire and ambulance get red only.

I always took the orange to mean something along the lines of: "this vehicle is to be noticed because it won't act like most other vehicles -- it goes slower (construction equipment), the driver can't see you very well (snowplow), it stops frequently (garbage truck), or there might be people on the roadway nearby (utility or tow truck)".
#16
Old 12-24-2003, 08:28 AM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Below the thermocline
Posts: 5,702
A few years ago, I knew someone who was a volunteer firefighter. He explained to me the standard strobe colors:

Red - I am an emergency vehicle. PULL OVER!
Blue - I am on urgent business. Please let me through.
Yellow - I am doing something funky. Please be careful around me.
Green - I am the command post. Warning: Boss inside.

There may be other strobe colors that I've forgotten.
#17
Old 12-24-2003, 08:56 AM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: California
Posts: 209
Quote:
Originally posted by danceswithcats
Yellow basically means-beware of slow moving vehicle, which may stop suddenly. (Or in PA- make no noise- 6 PENNDOT workers asleep inside)
6? I gotta change departments. CalTrans' vehicles only sleep 4!

--Patch
#18
Old 12-24-2003, 10:04 AM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 3,362
In UK flashing green means emergency doctor on way to incident. But you hardly ever see them. Apparently it just means please get out the way, but you are not obliged to,
#19
Old 12-24-2003, 10:24 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: The bunghole of WA
Posts: 12,407
Here in Washington, it's like so:

Red Only: Fire/ambulance
Red & blue: Police
Yellow: Pay attention to me

Firefighters have a green light on their personal vehicles. This light is usually mounted on the front bumper, or behind the grille, rather than on top of the vehicle. It is only used when the firefighter is on his/her way to the fire station in response to an emergency call-in.
#20
Old 12-24-2003, 01:07 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Capitol Wasteland
Posts: 5,531
Quote:
Originally posted by Diceman
They actually let them sleep in Pennsylvania, eh?

Here in Michigan, the MDOT guys are required to stand around and try to look like they might do something eventually
CalTrans is required to use as many people as possible for mundane tasks. For sweeping the freeway, they get one or two CHP cruisers on point guard, then two or three sweepers to stir the greasy dirt and leaves around thoroughly, then a flare truck to mark off the lane being cleaned, and the next one over to create a demilitarized zone, then a sign truck with a big flashing arrow, then another CHP cruiser for the rear guard. The kingly procession marches slowly down the freeway to ensure that no stone goes unturned, then returned, then unreturned.
#21
Old 12-24-2003, 02:24 PM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: midwest usa
Posts: 13
Colored lights and their meanings vary form State to State.

In Missouri,
Blue lights are for volunteer firefighters.

Red lights are emergency vehicles (police, fire&ems)...SOME tow trucks can run red lights, but I don't know how that works.

Green lights are used by Fire Dept's to signify the command post.

Yellow lights are on large or slow moving equipment

Purple lights are on funeral procession vehicles.

The old Missouri laws stated that red=police; blue=fire; green=ambulance. But as time went on, 'experts' found that red was more visible during certain conditions, blue was more visible during other certain conditions...blah blah blah.

Because of those reports, emergency vehicles started running red/blue combinations to cover all the conditions and the law was ignored for the most part.

You may also notice yellow rotating lights on the rear end of fire trucks now. They started showing up in the early nineties because the National Fire Protection Agency said they should be on there.

As stated before, yellow lights are more for attention, so you don't run into them when they are moving slow or making weird turns while plowing a parking lot.

The purple lights are a more recent addition to the Missouri laws for funerals.

As I said before, each state is different and in some states, each county can be different. If you are a volunteer firefighter with blue lights on your vehicle and you travel to a state that use them on police cars, be prepared to get pulled over. They will make you either take it down or cover it up.
#22
Old 12-24-2003, 03:41 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Akron, OH
Posts: 5,484
Cookingwithgas wrote:
Once I called the police because I saw a tow truck blatantly running a red light to get to an accident. They confirmed that he had no legal right to do so but probably wouldn't do anything unless a police officer had seen it.

--- End Quote ---
I seem to recall hearing that in *some* states tow truck operators have bona fide emergency vehicle status, but *only* when responding to requests to help clear a roadway. The story I read involved a guy trying to cut a tow truck that was responding to an accident with lights on off by means of opening said guy's driver's side door. Supposedly the private vehicle driver got cited for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
I suppose it kinda' makes sense. If someone can prevents hundreds of persons from being inconvenienced for hours, their presence is something of an emergency, and depending on visibility conditions and availability of flares and other warning lights, a tow truck arriving in a timely fashion could actually save lives.
#23
Old 12-24-2003, 04:41 PM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Sol3, Orion Arm, MilkyWay
Posts: 2,581
Wait, I thought:

- Red Lights: How about a date, big boy?
- Blue Lights: Always Low Low Prices
- Yellow Lights: umm... Diaper needs changing?
- Red and Green Lights: Happy Holidays!
- Black Lights: Bachelor Ahead or (in late October) Oooh, Scary!

Never mind.

Carry on.
#24
Old 12-24-2003, 09:13 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: CO
Posts: 1,572
Here's a link to the Minnesota Statutes regarding red, blue, and amber lights.

And here is the statute regarding white lights

In my area, green is used to signify the command post, but it is not used en route, and to the best of my knowledge is not regulated by law.

St. Urho
EMT/Firefighter
#25
Old 12-24-2003, 09:16 PM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: CO
Posts: 1,572
White lights should be white strobes.
__________________
Hein酲irkka, hein酲irkka, mene t鳵lt hiiteen!
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:47 AM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: drive cat crazy yellow bellied ketchup on pizza spoiled milk symptoms vicodin euphoria biker nomad kerosene lighter fluid dinosaur lifespan musical stinger baseball steal base is carnage stronger than venom how to fold moving boxes can a stent get blocked broken garage door spring how to open gillette stadium logo on field where are condoms in walmart how much can you bench naturally sayings pot calling the kettle black how far back can i amend taxes broadway plays on dvd carrom maze board for sale jaw popped out of place