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North Dakota Emergency Vehicle Light Statutes

North Dakota Emergency Vehicle Light Statutes

Disclaimer

This article was written by a contributing author, and is not meant to be taken as legal advice, nor is it intended to replace the state statutes. Do your due diligence, cross-check the statutes linked, and communicate with your local municipalities, registrar, or commissioner to ensure that you remain compliant and avoid costly fees.

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State Overview

Before we delve into the various statutes, it’s important to clarify and define a few terms:

North Dakota has authorized emergency vehicles divided into various classes based on the definitions, however the overarching definition includes the following vehicles:

  • a vehicle owned by the fire department
  • A vehicle operated by the police department
  • An ambulance
  • A vehicle used for law enforcement purposes
  • A wrecker
  • And any other vehicles mentioned in chapter 39-01-01

Emergency lights typically are lights used for emergency purposes by authorized emergency vehicles and are either blue or red. Warning lights are most commonly used for commercial use or on construction sites to help warn oncoming traffic of a potential hazard. They are typically amber, white, or another colors. Green lights have exclusive emergency use of command centers. 

Law Enforcement Statutes

Police, Marshall, and Sheriff Vehicles

According to the North Dakota emergency vehicle light statutes, a police, marshall, and/or sheriff vehicle are considered an authorized emergency vehicle, specifically belonging to Class A of emergency vehicles. As such, it is explained that these vehicles are permitted to use emergency lights, specifically red lights and white lights. These lights should be rotating or flashing and visible from at least 500 feet. Additionally, these vehicles are allowed the use of rotating or flashing blue lights, and can even do a combination of blue and white lights, white and red lights, or red and blue lights. Additionally, the North Dakota emergency vehicle light statutes clarify that these law enforcement vehicles are allowed to display a red and blue light that must also be visible from a minimum of 500 feet. Any emergency lights should only be used when on the way and responding to an emergency, or on the way back from one. This is in accordance with section 39.10.03 of the North Dakota emergency vehicle light statutes. Amber lights are also allowed to be used in order to help traffic continue as normal, when helping a vehicle stopped on the highway. Once again, these lights should be visible from 500 feet in normal weather conditions. 

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Fire and EMT

Fire Truck & Fire Chief SUVs

A fire truck and fire chief SUV is considered an authorized emergency vehicle based on the definition mentioned above in Chapter 39-01-01. The following only applies to government-operated fire trucks and not volunteer firefighter trucks. All authorized emergency vehicles are required to use flashing red and white lights, as Chapter 39-10-03(b) states. These must be visible from 500 feet minimum in normal weather conditions. The firetruck and fire chief SUV is also permitted the use of a flashing blue light on top of the red and white lights. 

These lights are only permitted to be used in the case of an emergency or driving to or from an emergency.

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Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles

Volunteer firefighter vehicles (Class C authorized emergency vehicle) are a different type of authorized emergency vehicle that is not given the same permission and emergency light usage as government-operated firefighter trucks. In Chapter 39-10-03(2), it is explained that volunteer firefighter vehicles are also considered an authorized emergency vehicle with permission to use flashing blue and white lights. 

These lights must also be visible from 500 feet in normal weather conditions so that other drivers are alerted about the approaching authorized emergency vehicle that follows different traffic laws. It is also important that these are only used on when driving to or from an emergency. 

Ambulance & EMT Vehicles

An ambulance and EMT vehicle is considered an authorized emergency vehicle operating by the same rules as government-operated firetruck. This means that similar to firetrucks, ambulances and EMT vehicles are permitted to use flashing red and white emergency lights in accordance with Chapter 39-10-03. These lights are only allowed to be turned on when driving to or from an emergency.

Commercial and Amber Statutes

Security Vehicles

Security vehicles aren’t mentioned in the statutes of North Dakota. These vehicles would not be deemed an authorized emergency vehicle and therefore are not permitted the use of emergency or warning lights. However, security vehicles should use headlamps and taillamps according to Chapter 39-21-01. Double check with the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) here to enquire about white or amber lighting for security vehicles. 

Wreckers and Tow Trucks

Unlike many other states, North Dakota considers a registered wrecker an authorized emergency vehicle in Chapter 39-01-01. This means that wreckers are allowed the use of amber and white warning lights. This is in accordance with Chapter 39-10-03, and as a side note – these lights must be visible from at minimum 500 feet. 

Tow trucks are mentioned in Chapter 38-05-03(1), and are allowed the use of amber lights on top of the regular requirements like headlights and taillights. These lights must remain visible from the front AND the back at a minimum of 500 feet. 

Tractors

According to Chapter 39-21-01, tractors are required the use of lighted headlamps and taillamps when on the road between sunset and sunrise. Additionally, tractors are required the use of two single beam or multiple beam headlights, a red light on the rear, and a total of two red lights. These lights should be easily seen from 1,000 feet distance according to chapter 39-21-15. The only exception to this is that it can be either one red light visible from 1,000 feet or 2 lights visible from 100 feet distance. 

Utility Vehicles

Utility vehicles aren’t mentioned in the North Dakota emergency light vehicle statutes anywhere. Contact NDDOT to learn more. 

Pilot and Escort Vehicles

A pilot and escort vehicle is only mentioned in the North Dakota emergency light vehicle statutes as it pertains to driving behind or in front of a vehicle with an oversized load in accordance with Chapter 38-05-02. In this particular case, the pilot and escort vehicle are allowed the use of flashing amber lights in order to alert traffic of the possible danger of the oversized load falling off or to be careful of when driving next or around the vehicle. These lights must also be visible from 500 feet in normal weather conditions. 

Construction Vehicles

There are statutes in place regarding moving construction vehicles, but not clear laws when they are parked. In chapter 39-21-50, it states that slow-moving construction vehicles must have flashing amber lights in order to alert other drivers and not impede or pose a risk to traffic adhering to the traffic laws. These lights must be mounted so they are visible from 500 feet. 

Funeral Procession

According to Chapter 39-10-72, vehicles involved in a funeral procession must have their emergency lights on, and they must be flashing. Funeral processions have the right away and therefore need to warn oncoming traffic that they are going to be operating by different traffic laws and rules. Additionally, a vehicle participating in a funeral procession must have headlamps and taillamps turned on. 


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