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Texas Emergency Vehicle Light State Statutes

Texas Emergency Vehicle Light State Statutes

State Overview

Texas state laws surrounding the use of LED lights for an authorized emergency vehicle can be somewhat tricky to understand. Some industries should contact their local municipalities to ensure that they are following local ordinances to avoid potentially receiving costly fines.

Note: Texas Transportation Code Sec. 541.201 defines an authorized emergency vehicle as:

  • A fire department or police vehicle
  • An emergency medical services vehicle
    • Authorized under license of Department of State Health and Services
    • Operating under contract with emergency services district for emergency calls
  • Vehicle designated for emergency use by governing body of a municipality
  • County-owned or leased emergency management vehicle designated by the commissioner
  • Private Volunteer firefighter vehicle or certified EMS employee or volunteer when responding to a fire alarm or medical emergency
  • Industrial emergency response vehicles, including industrial ambulance
  • Vehicle owned by a blood or tissue bank when making emergency deliveries
  • Vehicle used for law enforcement purposes that are owned or leased by the federal government
  • Private vehicle of an employee or volunteer of a county emergency management division in a county with more than 46,500 people and less than 48,000

The definitions are fairly explicit and leave little room for ambiguity and deviation when it comes to emergency vehicle lights for an authorized emergency vehicle.

Law Enforcement Statutes 

Police, Marshall, and Sheriff Vehicles

According to Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305, a law enforcement vehicle is the only vehicle permitted to have a red light pointed forward. No other authorized emergency vehicle or private vehicle for any other industry is allowed to display these forms of warning lights.

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.702 indicates that a police vehicle may also have, but is not required to have, four alternately flashing red warning lights. Two of these warning lights are to be located on the front at the same level, and two warning lights are to be located on the rear at the same level. These lights must be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight.

It wasn’t explicitly stated, but generally, police cars are permitted to disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law as necessary to reach the scene of an emergency. The police officer must do so with due regard for the safety of each motorist on the highway to avoid a traffic accident.

Per Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157, all traffic must yield to police cars by changing lanes or slowing down to 20 MPH if the speed limit is 25 or higher, or 5 MPH if the speed limit is 20 or lower. If necessary, to allow safe passage, traffic must pull off the road or highway altogether when police cars or an authorized emergency vehicle is approaching with their warning lights illuminated.

Fire and EMS Statues

Fire Trucks and Fire Chief SUVs

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.702 requires fire vehicles to have four alternately flashing red warning lights. Two of these lights are to be mounted toward the front of the fire vehicles, while the other two are to be mounted toward the rear. Each emergency light must be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight.

It is not explicitly stated, but as an authorized emergency vehicle, fire vehicles are permitted to disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law as necessary to arrive at the scene of an emergency hastily. Those driving the fire truck must do so with due regard for the safety of each motorist on the road or highway to ensure that they do not cause a car accident. This is generally only permitted when illuminating the fire truck’s emergency lights while on the way to an emergency.

Every motorist on the road or highway must yield to a fire truck or fire vehicles by changing lanes or slowing down to 20 MPH if the posted speed limit is 25 or higher. If the posted speed limit is 20 or lower, traffic must slow down to 5 mph per hour as required by Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157. If necessary, traffic must pull off the road or highway completely to allow a fire truck or fire vehicles to pass safely.

Volunteer Fire Fighter Vehicles

A volunteer firefighter may have, but are not required to have, four alternately flashing red warning lights. Two of these lights should be mounted toward the front of the volunteer fire vehicles at the same level, while the other two are mounted toward the rear at the same level. They must be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight per Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.702. These lights may be permanently mounted or placed temporarily.

When operating as an emergency responder, it is not explicitly stated, but a volunteer firefighter may disregard the posted speed limit and any other traffic law as necessary to arrive quickly to the scene of an emergency. They must do so with due regard for the safety of all traffic on the road or highway to avoid causing a car accident. Generally speaking, this is only permitted when on the way to an emergency while illuminating emergency lights.

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157 requires motorists to yield to volunteer fire vehicles by changing lanes or slowing down to 20 MPH when the speed limit is 25 or above. If the speed limit is 20 or below, traffic must slow down to 5 MPH. If necessary, traffic must pull off the road or highway completely to allow for the safe passage of the emergency vehicle.

Ambulance and EMT Vehicles

An ambulance of emergency responder working for a medical company must have four alternately flashing red lights. Two of these lights must be located toward the front of the ambulance or emergency responder vehicle at the same level. The other two must be situated toward the rear at the same level. These emergency vehicle lights must be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions and sunlight according to Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.702.

While it is not explicitly stated in Texas law, an ambulance or emergency responder working for a medical company is generally permitted to disregard the posted speed limit or any other traffic law while traveling to the scene of an emergency. They must do so with regard to the safety of each motorist on the road to ensure that they do not cause a car accident. This is generally done while illuminating their emergency vehicle lights and using an audible signal, siren, or exhaust whistle.

According to Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157, Motorists are required to yield to an ambulance or emergency responder by changing lanes or slowing down to 20 MPH when the speed limit is 25 or above. IF the speed limit is 20 or below, traffic must slow down to 5 MPH. If necessary to allow for the safe passage of the ambulance or emergency responder, motorists must pull off the road or highway completely.

Commercial and Amber Statutes

Security Vehicles

Security vehicles are often excluded when it comes to laws surrounding the use of LED emergency lights, but Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 allows for security vehicles to utilize green, amber, or white emergency lights mounted to the top of the private company motor vehicle.

Wreckers and Tow Trucks

The use of emergency lights for a tow truck is unique in Texas as they are generally only permitted to utilize white lights or an amber beacon. Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 allows tow trucks to follow Sec. 547.702. They may have four alternately flashing red lights mounted as high as possible and spaced as widely as possible. Two of these lights must be located toward the front at the same level, and two must be situated in the rear at the same level. These emergency lights must be visible at 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions or sunlight. The requirement for using these red emergency lights is that it must be done under the direction of a police officer.

Motorists must yield to a tow truck the same way they must yield to police, medical, and fire vehicles. They must change lanes or slow down to 20 MPH if the speed limit is 25 or higher or 5 MPH if the speed limit is 20 or lower. This is all indicated under Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157.

Tractors

Tractors are not explicitly mentioned under Texas law, but they are generally permitted to illuminate amber beacons when utilized for an emergency purpose. Check with your local municipalities for further guidance.

Utility Vehicles

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 requires that utility vehicles have a lighted lamp illuminated, but the colors were not explicitly stated. The colors permitted are generally amber beacons or rotating amber and white lights. This is meant to distinguish the utility vehicle from an authorized emergency vehicle displaying red or blue rotating emergency lights.

Traffic must yield to utility vehicles the same way they must yield to police, medical, and fire vehicles. Motorists must change lanes or slow down to 20 MPH if the speed limit is 25 or higher or 5 MPH if the speed limit is 20 or lower. This is all indicated under Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157.

Pilot and Escort Vehicles

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 allows a pilot vehicle to be equipped with alternating flashing blue and amber lights when operating as an escort for an oversized load. Sec. 623.099 is a little more explicit when it comes to piloting an oversized load carrying a mobile home that is greater than 16 feet wide. They must tow lights flashing simultaneously visible to the front and rear or one amber beacon 8 inches wide or greater.

Construction Vehicles

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 requires construction vehicles to have lights illuminated when in use. It is not immediately clear what color the emergency lights must be, but generally speaking, they cannot be blue or red so that motorists can distinguish them from emergency vehicles. It is common for a construction vehicle to have amber lights or white lights that flash or rotate so that motorists are aware of the potential safety hazard that exists on the road or highway.

Unique to Texas, construction vehicles require motorists to yield to them when displaying their emergency lights per Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.157. Motorists must change lanes or slow down to 20 MPH if the posted speed limit is 25 or higher, or they must slow to 5 MPH if the posted speed limit is 20 or lower

Funeral Procession

A funeral procession is not explicitly stated under Texas law, but it may be safe to utilize the same restrictions as a pilot vehicle as a funeral procession requires a pilot vehicle to operate. Texas Transportation Code Sec. 547.305 allows a pilot vehicle to be equipped with alternately flashing blue and amber lights. 

Make sure that you contact your local municipalities before operating your funeral procession to be sure that you are following state guidelines. 

Personal Use 

Emergency Lights On Personal Vehicles

Texas law makes no indication of personal use for LED emergency lights outside of what is permitted for volunteer firefighters and medical vehicles that are privately owned.

Summary

Takeaway

Texas allows for non-emergency vehicles to use colors not generally permitted in other states. They are unambiguous when it comes to the direction of who is allowed to use emergency lights and are explicit with placement and visibility distances.

This is not meant to replace the Texas code when it comes to ensuring that you are following the laws for your industry. Do your due diligence and contact your local municipalities so that you do not unintentionally violate the Texas code and incur a costly penalty.

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