August 1, 2008

Earl M. Sweeney, Asst. Commissioner of Safety

Subject: Inspecting vehicles with emergency lights and warning lights


As of September 9, 2008, a new law, Chapter 358, laws of 2008, has been passed governing emergency lights and warning lights on vehicles. With the passage of this law, it will no longer be necessary for owners of these vehicles to present a written permission from DMV In order to have these flashing or oscillating lights.

The new law breaks the lights into two classes – emergency lights and warning lights. Emergency lights are red or blue in color. Warning lights are amber (yellow) in color. Blue is exclusively for police department vehicles and police officers’ vehicles and no other vehicles with blue lights should be allowed to pass inspection. However, in addition to but not in place of blue lights, police vehicles can also display red or amber on their light bars.

Red is for fire apparatus, firefighter’s vehicles, forestry vehicles, licensed public or private ambulances, emergency medical response and rescue vehicles, airport authority emergency response vehicles, and government vehicles used in response to emergencies resulting from hazardous materials spills, and members of licensed emergency medical response and rescue crews such as EMT’s and Paramedics.

Hospital emergency personnel who are not members of ambulance or rescue squad crews, however, do require a permit from the Commissioner of Safety to display red lights on their personal vehicles.

In addition to red lights, fire trucks can also display white and amber lights.

Nobody other than those named above can equip vehicles with red emergency lights.

The following vehicles can display amber warning lights: Vehicles owned by or leased to state, county or municipal DOT’s and public works departments such as plow trucks, pickup trucks, snowplows, graders, loaders, sand trucks, sweepers, tar trucks, etc.; vehicles used by telephone, electrical and cable utilities and tree services for maintenance of utility, sewer and water lines; U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles; wreckers and emergency highway service vehicles; vehicles used for escorting oversize loads; privately owned vehicles used for snow removal; refuse collection vehicles and compacters; vehicles owned by or leased to contractors and construction companies and used regularly to provide warning of road obstructions or hazards at road or utility sites; and vehicles owned by public or private security services (but not personal vehicles of security guards). No other vehicles should have amber warning lights.

Snowplows can be equipped with amber or white wing lights to illuminate the wings when the plow is in operation.

School buses, of course, can be equipped with the whole range of red stop lights, amber stop ahead lights, white overhead lights, etc., that are allowed by the NH School Bus regulations.

Funeral escort and lead vehicles can be equipped with purple warning lights.

Antique fire trucks used for parades can be equipped with red emergency lights.

The Department of Safety can approve other uses of these lights but in those cases not covered by this directive there should be a written permit.

Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel presenting their privately owned personal vehicles for inspection should be asked to show you a letter on official stationery from their department or an official ID card or badge issued by their department.

If you have any questions about this at any time, do not hesitate to contact the Inspection Desk at DMV or my office at 271-2559