A guide to emergency vehicle regulations

Emergency vehicles on UK roads are subject to a number of regulations governing how they are operated.

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These rules govern everything, from the livery of the vehicles to the use of flashing lights and sirens.

It is important to understand what is classified as an emergency vehicle, and to note that the term does not simply refer to police, fire brigades and the ambulance service. Police purposes may include search and rescue. Local authorities or the Forestry Commission may use vehicles for fire-fighting activities on public land, and cave rescue groups could be using vehicles for ambulance activities.

Other groups using emergency vehicles include the Coastguard, mountain rescue groups, the RNLI and, of course, the Military.

Lighting and rear markings

The main legislation governing lighting and rear markings can be found in the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989, which has been subject to a number of amendments in 2005, 2009 and 2011 to include additional vehicles operated by the HMRC and Special Forces and Mountain Rescue.

Flashing blue lights can be used by police vehicles to identify them and indicate a hazard, while fire control vehicles will use red lights, and ambulance or other medical vehicles will use green. Flashing lights must be visible from around the vehicle. Similarly, sirens can be used to provide an audible warning.

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Battenberg markings are now common on UK roads and are applied to the sides of emergency vehicles. These are named after the cross-section of the cake and are distinctive and are coloured in the same way as the lights and matched with a fluorescent yellow visible in daylight.

Fleet vehicles

Chevron markings on the rear of vehicles are also compulsory, and details of these Chapter 8 chevrons can be found in the Department for Transport Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 8.

To meet the legal requirements, it is essential to ensure that the markings comply, and information can be found at sites such as https://www.vehiclechevrons.com/.

When work vehicles have to be stationary, or in use on highways, they must be marked in this way in order to be in compliance with safety regulations. These not only include emergency vehicles, but also fleet vehicles or contractor vans which are operating in potentially dangerous situations, for example when maintenance work is underway.

The safety of other drivers and pedestrians is paramount.