The purpose of this report was to examine several sources of information about emergency-vehicle crashes and to use that information to make tentative recommendations about how warning lamps could be modified to increase safety.
The crash data examined provided several findings with possible implications for the effectiveness of warning lamps. Emergency vehicles are involved in fewer angle crashes in the dark, which is consistent with the hypothesis that warning lamps are effective in preventing those crashes. In addition, changes in the warning lamps on fire trucks with the 1998 model year may have improved their safety effectiveness, as suggested by reductions in the number of crashes on emergency runs relative those not on emergency runs. The examination of police accident reports for crashes involving firefighting vehicles in Florida suggested that there may be a substantial number of multiple-vehicle crashes (about 30 percent of the cases examined) in which drivers of the nonemergency vehicles did not detect the emergency vehicle. Stronger warning lamps might be able to address that problem. Although the results of the study increase the knowledge base of how warning lamps may affect the risk of emergency vehicle crashes, this knowledge is limited. Therefore, suggestions for improvements in warning lamps must be considered tentative, such as stronger warning lamps to potentially reduce the risk of crashes in which another driver fails to detect an emergency. Warning lamps are used on emergency vehicles in order to reduce traffic risks by increasing the conspicuity of those vehicles. However, there has been concern that, if they are too strong, warning lamps could also increase the risk of certain types of crashes. To date the empirical evidence on this issue from crash data has been limited. The purpose of this report was to examine several sources of information about emergency-vehicle crashes and to use that information to make tentative recommendations about how warning lamps could be modified to increase safety. Tables, figures, and references