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Spitzer: Law does not permit blue lights on trooper cruisers

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  • Spitzer: Law does not permit blue lights on trooper cruisers

    Spitzer: Law does not permit blue lights on trooper cruisers
    Associated Press

    ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York State Police force's attempts to put blue lights on the back of cruisers have hit a red light.

    An advisory opinion from state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer says the blue lights, a proposed safety feature for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor model used by most patrolling troopers, are reserved "exclusively" for use by volunteer firefighters' vehicles under New York state law.

    The Legislature in 2002, in fact, passed a law clarifying that blue lights were for voluntary firefighters, Spitzer said.

    "We are aware of no other state legislation that would provide an exception to this clear statement of legislative intent that the affixation of blue lights be limited to volunteer fire vehicles," Spitzer's opinion said.

    State police officials asked Spitzer for a formal opinion about installing two rear-facing blue lights on troop cars. One would be put on roofs of cruisers and the other on the inside of trunk lids, so that the lights would be visible to motorists approaching troop cars from behind when their trunks are up.

    Police cars typically use a combination of colors in flashing lights, such as blue, red and white; blue and yellow; or blue and red. Police are allowed to use blue in combination, but not singly.

    Some highway safety experts say singly flashing blue lights, without other colors, are the most attention-grabbing for other motorists.

    State police officials have been facing criticism from the state troopers' union and some state and federal legislators over the safety of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and the vehicles' alleged tendency to burst into flames if rear-ended in high-speed accidents.

    More than a dozen police officers nationwide, including New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose, have died in such crashes. Ambrose died late last year when his cruiser, stopped on the New York State Thruway in Yonkers, was hit by a drunken driver going about 90 mph.

    Plastic fuel tank shields have been installed on the 1,100 Police Interceptors used by state troopers in New York, though the president of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Police says the force did not retrofit the cars fast enough. Ambrose's cruiser did not have a shield.

    Dan De Federicis, the union president, said he was disappointed with Spitzer's opinion. He said the union sent the attorney general a letter arguing that the blue lights would be legal to put on troop cars under current law.

    "What we need to clarify is that we do not want to take away the blue lights from the volunteers, we just want to be able to use them as well - basically share the use of them," De Federicis said.

    A bill has been introduced in the state Legislature that would add police cars to those legally allowed to use blue lights in New York. Spitzer said in his opinion that if that measure passes, the installation of blue lights on troop cars would be legal.

    Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette said the attorney general is "completely sympathetic" to attempts to improve the safety of trooper cars.

    "But in our role as attorney general we point out to (State Police) Superintendent (Wayne) Bennett that in order to accommodate his very reasonable desire, the law has to be changed," Violette said.

    Lt. Glenn Miner, state police spokesman, said "we would be willing to work with the Legislature to fashion language in any new or amended legislation amenable to all parties."

    De Federicis said the blue lights are "one small piece of the puzzle" and that other safety measures are needed to make the Crown Victoria Police Interceptors safe. The union favors putting puncture-resistant bladders in the fuel tanks of the vehicles, like those used in NASCAR race cars, to reduce the risk of fires.

    Ford Motor Co., the manufacturer of the Police Interceptor, said the vehicle exceeds federal test crash standards. Company executives argue that the police officers killed or injured in rear-end crashes were all hit by vehicles going at extremely high speeds and that no viable commercial vehicle could be made that would withstand those impacts.
    My Fire Apparatus Photos: x635Photos.com

    Seth G., Round Rock Texas

  • #2

    Never Forget 9-11-2001

    Stay safe out there!

    IACOJ Member


    • #3
      Good article right there...A few members in the department just went to the highway safety course about this.
      Floral Park Fire Explorers
      Post 129
      Floral Park, New York


      • #4
        I still do not understand why this law exists in the first place. It would seem to me that if blue lights are returned to police cars, their use on more "official vehicles" would only help motorists respect the color and therefore motivate them to pull over for volunteers.
        Karl Neubecker
        Ellington, CT


        • #5
          This is ALWAYS a hot topic in NY. Especially in my county. I've seen cops and firefighters actually arguing about it. The Sheriff's Patrol and a few local dept's here use blue anyway. I seem to remember things getting VERY tense a while back when a local fire organization made a formal, written request to the local police that they remove any blue lights from their cruisers. Oh boy, was that a bad move. The cops basically assured them that if they pushed the issue, any firefighters they observed responding with more than 1 35 candlepower blue light would be pulled over and ticketed. Yikes! Thankfully cooler heads prevailed. I firmly believe that in our county, since the police have been using blue lights, the public has been much more responsive to our blue lights. I would absolutely welcome the state allowing PD to use blue. And it is a proven fact that blue light offers the best visibility day and night, even better than amber.


          • #6
            My department received two brush trucks that had flashing red and blue lights in their grills. There was a mad rush to change the lenses on them because it was against the law to have them on any fire apparatus. If a flashing blue light works so well how come the NYS fire service isn't pushing to be included in this law?

            Stay Safe


            • #7
              I think that putting blues back on trooper crusiers who give some respect back to the blue light. But I am uncertain if I would take it a step farther then that and include Fire Apparatus as well; I dont know why though, it is just one of those feelings that cant be justified. Even though there are people out there that even if its a cop car, dont do the proper thing when one approches from behind, or whatever.

              So putting single blue lights back on cruisers would probably be a good thing not only for the trooper, but also for volunteer FF. But who knows really anymore in todays world.


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