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Blue lights

The meaning of blue lights on Police Cars

Blue lights

We’ve all been there. Driving down the road, minding your own business, when suddenly an array of blue flashing lights appears from nowhere. 

Although a little startling (and praying they’re not pulling you over), blue lights on a police car serve as a very important tool for police officers. Signalling an emergency ahead, understanding the meaning of the infamous blue lights and how they impact your next moves behind the wheel is very important for your own safety. 

Today, we explore what blue lights mean, when they are used, and which other emergency services can use blue lights. Let’s dive right into it! 

When blue lights are used 

A police vehicle can use its blue lights for numerous reasons including when responding to an emergency, at the scene of an emergency, or alerting other road users of an upcoming hazard.

Essentially, blue lights are used to signal a warning to other road users and should prompt drivers to take immediate action to ensure not only their own safety, but also the safety of others.

If a responding police officer has been called to an emergency, the first thing they will do is turn on their blue lights, sometimes accompanied by a loud siren. By doing so, they alert other drivers to create space swiftly and safely for the vehicle to move through. The quicker a police car can get to the emergency, the better the outcome. 

Additionally, a police officer will often keep the blue flashing lights turned on upon arrival at the scene of an emergency. Again, this is to alert the public of a nearby accident or an upcoming hazard that may require drivers to make sudden stops or diversions. 

Blue lights meaning

The blue lights on a police car mean that there is an upcoming emergency and serves as an alert to other road users. 

Blue lights are a highly efficient way to quickly grab a driver’s attention as they can often be seen from a fair distance: especially in the dark.

However, police officers are only required to use their blue lights in the event of an emergency and are not allowed to use them for other purposes. So, what does this mean for you as a driver?

If you suddenly find yourself in a situation where a police car is approaching with its blue lights, you should quickly and safely steer your car into an appropriate space (usually to the left-hand side of your vehicle) to allow the police car to promptly get by you. Paying close attention to what is happening around you, you should only come to a stop when it is safe to do so without compromising the safety of yourself and others.

Who can use Blue Lights

By law, the only cars that can legally use blue lights are emergency vehicles. The following services can use their blue lights:

  • The police force (including terrorist and hostage threats i.e., Authorised Firearms Officers)
  • Firefighters
  • Ambulance/Paramedics 
  • The Royal Air Force unit 
  • HM Coastguard
  • The Military Special Forces 

Vehicles that do not fall under an emergency service are not allowed to use blue lights. 

Important to note: If you find yourself in a situation where a vehicle is using blue lights to attempt to pull you over and you’re unsure whether they are an emergency vehicle, the best thing for your safety is to not pull over and immediately contact your local police department. 

The Wrap-Up

To summarise, if you are driving along tending to your daily business and quickly find yourself amongst an array of flashing blue lights, be aware that there is an upcoming emergency that may need your attention or cause a sudden diversion.

Whether the emergency is miles ahead of you or just up the street, quickly bringing your attention to your surroundings is essential for your overall safety. Not only are you looking out for yourself and other road users, but by being on full alert, you are also providing the police car the best possible outcome by swiftly manoeuvring your vehicle out of their way. 

Tom Brook

Tom Brook

I am a former Police Detective with years of knowledge and experience in investigating serious crimes across Scotland, working with communities and keeping the public safe. I aim to give back to the Policing community with this site!
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