What Vehicles Are Allowed to Use Red Warning Lights?

Red warning lights have a long history as the go-to color for emergency response purposes. But did you know that the use of red warning lights is regulated by state laws? Not all emergency vehicles are permitted to run them and they’re definitely not permitted for civilian use. Check out our quick guide below to find out which vehicles are legally allowed to use red warning lights.

Tip: if you’re looking to outfit your vehicle with red lights, we always recommend checking your local state laws to make sure you’re able to do so.

Police Vehicles

Red warning lights are commonly used by police vehicles. In some states, like New Jersey or Rhode Island, they’ll be used in combination with other colors, such as blue or white. Some states are flexible about where you can install your lights, whereas others have more specific guidelines.

Fire Trucks

Fire trucks and fire engines are usually equipped with red warning lights. Like police vehicles, fire trucks are usually equipped with a combination of colors. However, according to the NFPA’s “Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus,” certain colors, like amber and white, are restricted to specific zones on a firetruck.¹ Red and blue lights are permitted in all zones.


Manufacturers typically build ambulances with specific lighting configurations. Not only are red lights used, but depending on each state’s laws, blue and white light may also be used. Ambulances may be equipped with clearance lights, dome lights, side markers, and scene lights.

Unique Cases

In some states, red warning lights can be used on vehicles such as tow trucks or utility vehicles, but only in specific situations. For example, in Arkansas, a tow truck or wrecker can use red lights, but only if the truck is “is stopped on or within ten feet (10’) of a public way and engaged in recovery or loading and hooking up an abandoned, unattended, disabled, or wrecked vehicle.”²

Red warning lights can be an incredibly effective tool in emergency situations. If you’re thinking about outfitting your vehicle with red lights, make sure you check your state laws first to make sure you are legally allowed to use them. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to chat with one of our sales support specialists!



¹“NFPA 1901: Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus.” NFPA.com, 2016, www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=1901.

²“2017 Arkansas Code :: Title 27 - Transportation :: Subtitle 4 - Motor Vehicular Traffic :: Chapter 51 - Operation of Vehicles -- Rules of the Road :: Subchapter 9 - Emergency Vehicles :: § 27–51-905. Use of Flashing Emergency Lights -- Definition.” Justia Law, 2017, law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2017/title-27/subtitle-4/chapter-51/subchapter-9/section-27-51-905.