Emergency vehicle equipment is used in the United Kingdom to indicate urgent journeys by an emergency service. This usage is colloquially known as Blues and twos which refers to the blue lights and the two-tone siren once commonplace (although most sirens now have a range of tones like Wail, Yelp and Phaser). A call-out requiring the use of lights and sirens is often colloquially known as a blue light run.
In the United Kingdom, the use of blue lights is regulated by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, and sirens by the Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986, both as amended by various other pieces of legislation (see right). The 1989 restrictions state that no vehicle, other than an emergency vehicle, shall be fitted with a "blue warning beacon or special warning lamp", or a device which resembles a blue warning beacon or a special warning lamp, whether it works or not.
Each of the emergency services listed above has different policies regarding the use of blue lights and sirens. Most require the driver to be trained to a particular standard in response driving, but currently, no national standard exists. Provision exists for a national standard to be required in order to utilise speed limit exemptions, but this has not been brought into force.
Road traffic exemptions
In the UK, vehicles used for certain purposes may have exemptions from some road traffic regulations whilst responding to an emergency. Merely being authorised to use blue lights and sirens does not of itself grant exemptions from road traffic law. These exemptions apply whether or not blue lights and/or sirens are being used, although it is mainly desirable:
- treating a red traffic light as a give way sign
- passing to the right of a keep left or keep right sign (but not disobeying a turn left, turn right, or ahead only sign)
- driving on a motorway hard shoulder (even against the direction of traffic)
- exceeding the statutory speed limit (police, fire and ambulance purposes only; and special forces purposes only for national security emergencies where the driver is trained or is being trained in high-speed driving)
- driving in a bus lane
- stopping on zig-zag lines
- parking in restricted areas, including against flow of traffic at night
- leaving the vehicle with the engine running, normally the offence of "quitting" (police and ambulance utilising the run lock feature on most cars)
- using audible warnings outside permitted hours
- driving against the flow of traffic on a one-way street, only with permission of a police officer or traffic warden
- "The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989". legislation.gov.uk. United Kingdom: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1989. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
- By paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013, references to the Serious Organised Crime Agency are now deemed to be references to the new National Crime Agency
- Schedule 9 to the Deregulation Act 2015
- EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM TO THE ROAD VEHICLES LIGHTING AND GOODS VEHICLE (PLATING AND TESTING) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2009 AND THE ROAD VEHICLES (CONSTRUCTION AND USE)(AMENDMENT)( NO.4) REGULATIONS 2009
- Thomson, Richard. "Blue Light Use". UK Emergency Vehicles. Archived from the original on 9 January 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
- Regulation 36 of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
- Regulation 15 of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
- Section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
- Regulation 27 of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
- Section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974