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Improving Emergency Vehicle Lighting and Visibility at Roadway Incidents

Posted: March 7, 2024

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On Feb. 28, the Federal Highway Administration’s National Operations Center of Excellence held a webinar to explain research results that can be used to implement improvements to emergency vehicle lighting as well as improvements to responder and vehicle visibility at roadway incidents.

Dr. John Bullough, program director at the Light and Health Research Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, discussed the following research findings:

  • Reducing light intensity at night will maintain alerting but allow responders to be seen more accurately.
  • Just a little steady illumination around the vehicle will make responders much easier to see at night.
  • Reflective vehicle markings can sometimes be “too bright,” making emergency responders more difficult to see at night.
  • “High/low” flashing is better than “on/off” flashing for closure detection.
  • Synchronized lights help reduce visual chaos, and sequential lights provide visual information.
  • Blue and red lights are rated most visible; blue and white lights are most glaring.

The findings come from more than a decade of studies by Dr. Bullough and colleagues at the Light and Health Research Center. The research was sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and SoundOff Signal.

Watch the webinar recording for explanations of and citations to the supporting research for each of the above findings.

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This article is based on content in the
March 7, 2024 InfoGram.

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