The Safety and Effectiveness of Emergency Vehicle Lighting

Tunnicliff, Deborah (2005) The safety and effectiveness of emergency vehicle lighting. In Proceedings Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference, Sydney, Australia. The Safety and Effectiveness of Emergency Vehicle Lighting Chief Superintendent Kerry Dunn1 (Presenter); Deborah Tunnicliff2 (Presenter) 1State Traffic Support Branch, Queensland Police Service; 2Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) Biography Chief Superintendent Kerry Dunn has been a member of the Queensland Police Service for 29 years, gathering a wide array of operational and management experience in all facets of policing, including being Operations Coordinator for the Southern Police Region from 1999 to 2002. Awarded the Australian Police Medal for services to policing, Chief Superintendent Dunn has performed significant management orientated roles within the area of organised and major crime investigation. Since May 2002 he has managed the State Traffic Support Branch of the Queensland Police Service and has an interest in the development of “Best Practice” approaches involving the collaboration of relevant stakeholders supported by a framework of research and analysis. Deborah Tunnicliff graduated in sociology and research methods from the Australian National University prior to commencing work as a research assistant with the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. Since then, she has broadened her experience, working both nationally and internationally, focusing primarily on public health and quality assurance. A position within the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care combined these interests as she worked both within the Evaluation and Research Section, and in a project management role within the Public Health Branch. Ms Tunnicliff brings to CARRS-Q a strong interest in evaluative techniques, social research, survey design, statistical analyses, and project management. Abstract Vehicle mounted warning lights are used in a wide range of enforcement, road crash, health and fire emergency, road maintenance and development contexts. This paper examines the wide range of factors influencing selection and use of different lighting systems by police, ambulance and fire departments. The nature of the issue means that such research needs to draw on the expertise from a number of disciplinary fields including visual science and optics, road safety, and the policy and practice experience base of relevant emergency staff. The available national and international literature is summarised and key issues that are of particular relevance to the safety of the road user and of the workers in emergency response are identified. Emergency vehicle lights serve two major functions. Firstly they identify the vehicles as police, fire, ambulance, or other emergency services such as State Emergency Services, Council, or Department of Main Roads to provoke an informed and predictable public response. Secondly, they present a highly conspicuous form, to provide other road users with information about the distance, direction, and speed of the vehicle so that they can behave with due caution or take appropriate action. Most research on this issue is somewhat dated and fails to take emerging lighting technologies and the variety of conditions and circumstances in which lighting systems have to operate into account. There is a need for well researched and systematically enforced and managed policy and practice both in regard to the use of emergency lighting across all services and in the education of community behaviour in response to emergency signals. Emergency vehicles present a particular and intermittent hazard to the general road user and a best practice for their use needs to be developed that is evidence-based. Current practice and expectations appear to draw heavily on long established precedents. The development of policy in this area needs to be firmly based on sound up-to-date research. The current paper draws on work being undertaken by the Queensland Police Service in association with QUT School of Optometry and CARRS-Q and showcases a collaborative approach to information sharing in road safety. 1. BODY TEXT The Queensland Police Service has one of the largest vehicle fleets of any organisation in Queensland, operating approximately 1850 vehicles of which about 450 are fully marked. Emergency vehicle lighting was raised as an issue when the Queensland Police Service became heavily involved with other agencies in Incident Management. A broad crosssection of agencies began discussions on the need to identify appropriate combinations of lighting for varying circumstances with the issue of emergency services personnel and public safety being of paramount concern. Presently the Queensland Police Service has a broad fleet of vehicles ranging from highly visible booze buses to covert surveillance vehicles. There is a need to ensure that police vehicles and other emergency service and response vehicles can be clearly identified and recognised by the public. In particular, when dealing with incident management principles (for example at a road crash) lighting combinations need to ensure the safety of emergency service workers, while at the same time identifying to the public that there is an incident on the road ahead. At present a national standard exists for the markings of police vehicles. These markings were determined based on research conducted by the National Police Research Unit (NPRU) in Adelaide, now known as the Australasian Centre for Policing Research. The blue light has always been associated with police, however the move to include a red light on police vehicles nation-wide recognizes that the red light is more visible in certain conditions. The overarching purpose of police, fire, ambulance and emergency services revolves around public safety. Emergency vehicle lighting promotes this in two ways: 1. Identification: To clearly identify the vehicle as belonging to police, ambulance, fire, or other emergency services so that the relevant response can be made by the public and safety protected. 2. Conspicuity: To present a highly visible form (360°) that: allows identification at a distance sufficient for road users or pedestrians to take appropriate action. This may be facilitating an unobstructed, speedy path for the emergency vehicle, or it may be avoiding the parked emergency vehicle and being alert to possible hazards, traffic operations or random breath testing etc., provides information about the speed and distance of the emergency vehicle, facilitates the safe movement of emergency services workers or police around accidents or during the course of performing operational tasks such as Random Breath Testing.