Lightbars on chase vehicles

The convoluted rooftop gadgetry and lightbars (could someone explain the need for a lightbar to me, please?) have always seemed a bit much for me. I'm getting a Kestrel 3000 in the mail soon and that will be the first and likely only bit of observational equipment accompanying me on this year's trip.

As far as other gadgets, I like to go by detailed paper maps. It's just what I'm used to. I like having the laptop in the car for data checking while waiting for initiation and while winding down in the hotel at night, but once we're in the thick of it, it doesn't help much unless we're near a major interstate.
 
Lightbars are Attention Grabbers. That was the idea behind the design. I think the main reason is safety. We use ours when parked near the highway. It is not always possiable to get far enough off the road in a blinding storm. It is required on our unit. Requires a special permit.
 
Originally posted by David Drummond
No worries! Just giving my use for them. :wink: I agree too, I have seen some \"light machines\" on the road from time to time. Last year 3 of them blew by us going, somewhere? while we were on the side of the road filming a tornado. :lol:

The ones that get me are the ones with "SEVERE STORM SPOTTER" or "STORM CHASER" or "STAY BACK 300 FEET" or some other such malarkey plastered all over the vehicle! :lol:
 
Originally posted by Joe Nield
The ones that get me are the ones with \"SEVERE STORM SPOTTER\" or \"STORM CHASER\" or \"STAY BACK 300 FEET\" or some other such malarkey plastered all over the vehicle! :lol:

Although I do not have stuff like that on my vehicle, I would say that most who do have them put them there for non-chasers. If we had to have approval from the chase community before adding stuff to vehicles then there would be a bunch of plain family sedans running around.
I do have amber LED strobes that clear when not in use. They are mounted inside the windows and not seen until I need them.
 
Originally posted by Bill Hamilton+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Bill Hamilton)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Joe Nield
The ones that get me are the ones with \"SEVERE STORM SPOTTER\" or \"STORM CHASER\" or \"STAY BACK 300 FEET\" or some other such malarkey plastered all over the vehicle! :lol:

Although I do not have stuff like that on my vehicle, I would say that most who do have them put them there for non-chasers. If we had to have approval from the chase community before adding stuff to vehicles then there would be a bunch of plain family sedans running around.
I do have amber LED strobes that clear when not in use. They are mounted inside the windows and not seen until I need them.[/b]

I'm not saying people need to get approval or anything, but plastering the entire vehicle with decals doesn't really serve a useful purpose. One or two isn't such a big deal.
 
hehe

LOL, here we go again... ;)

Just a word of advice for newer chasers here considering lightbars...

Many local authorities and some state laws do not authorize lightbars for "chasers" per say... amber or otherwise. Most chasers who have lightbars are first responders or emergency volunteers/responders who have received permits for lightbars on their vehicles. A quick search of state and local regulations for each state will spell out which states allow and do not allow lightbars. In most cases, they will be for "emergency vehicles or utility vehicles such as tow trucks"..and even those regulations are spelled out quite carefully.

Using an amber light bar in some states where they are not allowed could yield a traffic stop and a request for permit, and a fine if you do not have one. Using red and blue universally requires special permits as well and is just about universally recognized for emergency responders.

In short, make sure you have the permit to get one and be sure, check your local regulations.

Concerning other ensignia on chase vehicles, no law against stickers that say "Storm Chaser", "Severe Storm Spotter", etc... lol, ever seen all the stickers on our hunting fellows? more power to you in that respect, hey, its your car. But with amber lights and lightbars? thats dang tricky territory.
 
Originally posted by Joe Nield

The ones that get me are the ones with \"SEVERE STORM SPOTTER\" or \"STORM CHASER\" or \"STAY BACK 300 FEET\" or some other such malarkey plastered all over the vehicle! :lol:
I'm guilty of having a skywarn spotter sticker on my car...the reason behind the sticker is not to warn anyone...but it gives some official reasoning behind my speeding to the LAW. Cops really don't like "storm chasers" who are out there just following some official chaser. If you actually can spot, then it sets you apart from the others who are out there for just S's and G's. There's sort of a sneeky motivation behind it. Sorry! :wink:
 
Originally posted by Justin Walker+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Justin Walker)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Joe Nield

The ones that get me are the ones with \"SEVERE STORM SPOTTER\" or \"STORM CHASER\" or \"STAY BACK 300 FEET\" or some other such malarkey plastered all over the vehicle! :lol:
I'm guilty of having a skywarn spotter sticker on my car...the reason behind the sticker is not to warn anyone...but it gives some official reasoning behind my speeding to the LAW. Cops really don't like "storm chasers" who are out there just following some official chaser. If you actually can spot, then it sets you apart from the others who are out there for just S's and G's. There's sort of a sneeky motivation behind it. Sorry! :wink:[/b]

I'm not saying that's a bad thing! In fact, Skywarn stickers are probably a good idea. Identify yourself as belonging to an organized group for the purposes of maybe keeping paranoid farmers from shooting you if you stop on their road. ;)

Again, it's the ones that have the entire vehicle plastered from top to bottom with useless decals that make me chuckle.
 
Depends on where you are chasing. I did some reseach on this one night. Seems that only a few states had strict rules regarding amber lights, and they weren't any states I would be chasing in anyway. Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia. Most states have either no laws regarding amber lights, or very broad, general rules regarding them, usually allowing their use by anyone. Here is a good resource on that:

http://www.wagnersafety.com/lights/laws.html

Now red and blues, no chaser should have those, UNLESS their vehicle doubles in some other capacity that requires it, such as EM, firefighter, etc.

Interestingly, I have seen quite a few Oklahoma vehicles with wigwag headlights, including some news chase vehicles. Surprised me at first, but I am guessing this is legal in OK. I know it's illegal in TX, but I saw a vehicle with TX plates that I recognized as someone from the central TX area running wigwags when chasing in OK.

I can see a lot of stickering on media vehicles, they want to been seen out chasing/spotting by the community so viewers will know they are watching things. It's promotion. I could almost even see that on Chase Tour vehicles. They are running a business and driving around those big mobile free billboards.

Don't know what to think about the "Keep back 500 feet" one, I saw that one too.
 
Originally posted by Justin Walker

I'm guilty of having a skywarn spotter sticker on my car...the reason behind the sticker is not to warn anyone...but it gives some official reasoning behind my speeding to the LAW. Cops really don't like \"storm chasers\" who are out there just following some official chaser. If you actually can spot, then it sets you apart from the others who are out there for just S's and G's. There's sort of a sneeky motivation behind it. Sorry! :wink:

Having a SKYWARN sticker gives absolutely no "officialness" whatsoever, much less a license to break traffic laws.
 
This topic looks like it's been hacked and slashed from a couple of different previous threads or has been severely modified by either author and/or Moderators. In any case, Here's my response.

I place amber lights up for more safety reasoning that anything else. Some of the raods in North Central Oklahoma tend to get a little narrow. I have also had opportunity to help with Traffic Control at accidents or other scenes where Police units were overwhelmed. Since I am also a Media Chaser, the secondary purpose is to grab attention. This gets the sation a few more listeners. They see the truck and the Station logo and they tune in. In the long run, that means an economic benefit. Yhis also has a plus when I'm in my Public Education mode. When going to schools or public events, everyone wants to know what the weather is going to be. They see the truck and start asking questions. Public Awareness is a real positive and gives me the chance to correct misconceptions and get the safety word out. Kids thinks it's "Kewl". Teachers love it as they get a short break. Third reason is another safety realted one: When I'm out spotting/chasing Law Enforcement knows we are out. I know some of the local LE and most of them know me or of me. They tend to leave me alone or stop by to find out what's going on, Another plus is a POSITIVE image being projected at least locally.

We've all heard of the "Bad" media chasers. We've all heard the stories of yokels doing really dumb stuff and we've all heard about certain chasers doing some really dumb things. It's a chance to get a "good" image out there. Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters (OAB) has a slick commercial that gets aired from time to time and this helps promote the positive image. Spotters report to Civil Authority. This is well and good. Chasers will often report to NOAA or even 911, which is, again, well and good. Media reports to the public. the folks that really need the information. This isn't always television. Farmer Brown out discking his field doesn't have a TV with him and rarely a scanner. He will have a radio with him 9 times out of 10. He gets the info he needs to make a decision to keep plowing or run for cover. He can't get that 10 miles out of town where there aren't any sirens.

How do lights help with this? It gives me an edge while I'm out. It warns people that there is "something" up ahead. They see the logo and tune in and get informed. Yeah, the lights help if used professionally and properly. Those of you who chase for the pure enjoyment of chasing? I doubt you are going to need or want a big air grabbing light bar on top of your vehicle.

As far as permits being required? Oklahoma doesn't require this for Amber Lights. Emergency Services have exlusive use of red/blue (Wreckers are included here). We can also have colored lights facing the rear. Amber and white are the only lights allowed to face forward on civilian vehicles that I'm aware of. Surrounding states? I don't think Texas has a rule on amber lights and I don't believe Kansas has specific rules against it either. This doesn't include local laws the limite or prohibit them though. Most states won't give you a hassle about lights (Amber or otherwise) if your in a state outside your own. As loong as your home state allows it and you have proof that you live in that state. As a police officer in New Hampshire, I was aloowed to have blue lights in my personal vehicle as I responded to incidents from home. When visiting Oklahoma or Kansas, I was only questioened once and there was no real issue once the ID was verified with DL and Police ID. I've never had issue with amber lights.
 
hmm

A check on some regulations in Oklahoma:

I did a check on this on Oklahoma, for example, and state law prohibits flashing lights EXCEPT on the following vehicles:

1. Authorized emergency vehicle
2. School bus or church bus
3. Snow removal/construction/maintenance
4. Wrecker/tow vehicle
5. Any vehicle for right or left turn indication
6. Any vehicle for means of passing or overtaking
7. Side markers which flash with turn signals
8. Farm tractors
9. Any vehicle used for official duties of mail carrying

A direct quote says that:

E. Any person violating the provisions of subsection B, C or D of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six (6) months, or by a fine not exceeding Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

SOURCE: SECTION 45. AMENDATORY 47 O.S. 2001, Section 12-228, Oklahoma State Legislation

Unless I missed something, I cannot see the permission for amber lights for chasers....if I have missed something, please let me know I would appreciate that. Most other state legislations have similiar wording.
 
Re: hmm

Originally posted by Jeffrey Miller
A check on some regulations in Oklahoma:

If that's still in effect, I think it's safe to say that is one law that is going unenforced, given the LARGE amount of Oklahoma chase cars (and other states too) that I have seen chasing in OK with Amber flashing lights, which include even some of the research vehicles like the DOWS and some mobile mesonet cars.
 
Originally posted by John Diel
What he said... didn't want to quote it all...

Very well said, and I feel very much the same way. Once I am done with the chase vehicle I know the station is going to sticker it up some with logos, not sure exactly what yet. We will be doing some public awareness stuff. We just got through doing a career day thing at one of the local schools.

This is my thinking.... people that are residents of the plains are used to severe weather in the spring. So much so, they often get complacent about it and ignore the dark clouds brewing. Now suppose your one of these people, and you see a couple of rigged out chaser go by with lights flashing, your going to think, uh oh, there must be some tornadoes going on, there go the storm chasers. And they go tune in and find out what's going on. I think it raises public awareness around a storm in some cases.
 
See Section C6
A. Any lighted lamp or illuminating device upon a motor vehicle, other than headlamps, spot lamps, auxiliary driving lamps, flashing turn signals, vehicular hazard warning lamps, authorized emergency vehicle lamps, snow removal and construction and maintenance vehicle warning lamps, and school bus and church bus warning lamps, which projects a beam of light of an intensity greater than three hundred (300) candlepower shall be so directed that no part of the high intensity portion of the beam will strike the level of the roadway on which the vehicle stands at a distance of more than seventy-five (75) feet from the vehicle.

B. Except as provided in Sections 12-216, 12-218, 12-228 and 12-229 of this title, no person shall drive or move any vehicle or equipment upon any highway with any lamp or device thereon displaying or capable of displaying a red or blue light visible from directly in front of the center thereof.

C. Flashing lights are prohibited except on :

1. An authorized emergency vehicle, as provided in Section 12-218 of this title;

2. A school bus or a church bus, as provided in Section 12-228 of this title;

3. Any snow-removal and construction, and maintenance equipment, as provided in Section 12-229 of this title;

4. A wrecker or tow vehicle while at the scene of an emergency, as provided in Section 36 of this act;

5. Any vehicle as a means of indicating a right or left turn, as provided in Sections 28 and 73 of this act;

6. Any vehicle as means of indicating the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing, as provided in Section 12-220 of this title;

7. Any vehicle displaying side marker lamps which flash in conjunction with turn signal lamps or vehicle hazard warning lamps, as provided in Section 12-220 of this title;

8. A farm tractor or an implement of husbandry, as provided in Section 12-215 of this title; or

9. Any vehicle used while performing official duties as a rural or contract route mail carrier of the United States Postal Service, as provided in Section 37 of this act.

D. Blue lights are prohibited except as allowed in Sections 12-216, 12-218 and 12-229 of this title.

E. Any person violating the provisions of subsection B, C or D of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six (6) months, or by a fine not exceeding Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.


12-220 is somewhat debatable in it's wording. If a trooper were to give me a ticket and tell me to take it off, I would at the earliest opportunity. These laws have been updated since I last looked at them so it's fairly new. How many Troopers are going to stop me simply because I have amber lights? Not very many unless I'm doing something stupid. If I'm doing something stupid, then I deserve to be stopped. Somewhere I'm sure there is an anal retentive that will bust me. I hope I don't run across him. At best, it would go to traffic court and most likely, I could get the whole thing taken under advisement. That's neither here nor there though. I serve in a public safety mode when operating the lights. that in itself is justification under the law. Whether I am reporting to puclic service or private service, it really doesn't matter, I'am still serving a public safety function.
 
I have a rotating amber light that I ONLY use in very low-visibility situations. I've used it maybe 6 times in as many years... Last time I used it I was 'chasing' a nice bow echo MCS. I had to stop on the side of the road due to almost 0 visibility (at night)... I opted to use the light only to provide visibility so someone doens't smack into me at 50mph from behind. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether flashing lights actually cause folks to be attracted to the car, since it's be discussed before. I don't even put the light on my car (it's mag-mount) unless it's use is imminent, and, like I said, that only happens about once a year.

Joe N.: as you said it well, I am greatly troubled by those folks who have stickers plastered all over their vehicles staying "OFFICIAL STORM CHASER!" and "STAY BACK ONE MILE" and "SKYWARN SPOTTER - STAY BACK" yada yada yada. I have NO problem with one or two smaller bumper stickers (e.g. one of those round Skywarn stickers or something), but I don't like the huge door-sized decals... Are you there to make yourself look official and important, or are you there to document a storm, or enjoy the experience, or provide a public service via active spotting, etc? :roll:
 
As regards Oklahoma: everything I've seen and experienced on this says amber or clear flashing lights from any direction are acceptable so long as the chase vehicle is parked on the side of the road. I'm not sure how the law views this, but that's my real-world interpretation. As long as you're parked, you're fine.

Running up and down the road is a different story. I can't count the number of times I've seen Oklahoma chasers running with lights (wig-wags, strobes, lightbars, etc., etc.), and I've never heard of anyone getting into trouble (actually, the only story I've heard is that a trooper once stopped a NewsChannel 4 van for running wig-wags while driving). But it is frowned upon for sure by law enforcement, and if a trooper was having a bad day he might get you for it. It is not acceptable because chasers are not emergency responders.

I have wig-wags, back-up flasher, and two clear strobes on mine, but I almost never use them. Definately not the wig-wags. I have never used those at all. It's wise to have warning lights besides your hazards when you're parked roadside. It's not wise to drive like a bat out of hell while running emergency warning lights (which I've seen chasers do).

As far as lightbars, I don't see the point. You can have just as much light output on a vehicle with undercover warning lights as you can with a lightbar, with the added benefit of people not looking at you strangely (or cops asking questions). The only good thing about a lightbar is that you can use the takedowns and alleys for scene lighting.

Edit: Doesn't anyone here know some troopers to ask so we can get the question of real-world legality in the plains states answered?
 
:( I am not sure why this is always a topic that gets out of hand. I you feel the need for all the flashing lights then buy them and make your vech. look like a UFO. If you hate them them do not waste your money. You are required to follow the rules on them in the state in which yourunit is lic. If your state has no law then you can have them. Most officers will have no interest in you as long as you are not acting crazy or indangering the public. I have been doing this for 20 years and have never had a problem with useing them while useing common sense. As for units like the DOW trucks and the like. If it has gov plates it is exempt from state law on flashing lights.and to cover the question I always get Yes I worked for the WV State Police for 4 years And have been a Fire CSI for more than 20 years.
 
I admit I'm a newbie here but here's my 2 cents....

Laws on lightbars vary not only by state but by locale as well. In KS Red on a vehicle is out, Blue is iffy and yellow or clear is OK. Common sense prevails, I use a small amber 1/4 bar but only if I'm stopped where there may be a traffic hazard.

Jon
 
Originally posted by David Drummond+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(David Drummond)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Justin Walker

I'm guilty of having a skywarn spotter sticker on my car...the reason behind the sticker is not to warn anyone...but it gives some official reasoning behind my speeding to the LAW. Cops really don't like \"storm chasers\" who are out there just following some official chaser. If you actually can spot, then it sets you apart from the others who are out there for just S's and G's. There's sort of a sneeky motivation behind it. Sorry! :wink:

Having a SKYWARN sticker gives absolutely no "officialness" whatsoever, much less a license to break traffic laws.[/b]

Of course not. I think he was saying that in the world of "cops use their own discretion", police officers are perhaps more likely to use kinder discretion with someone that they feel uses their super-storm-chasing powers for good instead of evil. It doesn't justify speeding, just like putting one of those "I support the local Sheriff's Association" donation stickers doesn't give you "licence" to speed. It just makes a cop who's having a bad day consider giving you a good day.

BTW, I use a Skywarn magnet to get fellow chasers to come out of the woodwork and say hi to me when I stop at places. Yeah, I went to a Skywarn class, but no, I'm not on the local net. I don't have the money to farm antennas. But I do like Skywarn in general and I doubt the extra visiblity kills them, unless, of course, I literally get killed while chasing with a Skywarn sticker.
 
As someone who witnessed a horrible fatal accident
a few years ago (not chasers) due to a dust storm and poor visibility,
I strongly support yellow flashers, bars or strobes visible from the rear.
With all the excitement along the sides of a road during a chase, any
kind of warning is a positive thing.

I do not think chasers should not be using any type of flashing light or headlamps visible on the front just to pull people over to get to a storm faster.

Mike
 
I'm inclined to go along with those who say they're good for low visibility, like solid walls of rain and situations like a dust storm, just so nobody will accidentally smack into them. Of course, if laws and regulations say no, not much anyone can do. Even then. I don't think a full lightbar would not be all that necessary, just a smaller strobe, like I've seen on some school busses and railroad locomotives.

I think it's silly to have lights and flashy doo-dads on the car just to say 'look at me! I'm a STORM CHASER!'. I guess people wanna be really Hollywood and dramatic though. Or maybe I'm just too mundane :D

Of course, TV and radio station vehicles have logos and crap plastered all over them anyway, so I'm not sure if it makes any difference in their regard.
 
I too am a newbie here, but I'm under the opinion that lightbars could be beneficial for spotter safety. Generally, I like to turn on my emergency lights when I'm pulled off (seeing as amber-colored lightbars aren't exactly legal for spotting). I may change my mind if I move out of state or I see an urgent need, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Also, the wig-wags scream law enforcement to me. I just can't see myself using them for storm spotting.
 
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