The Definitive Lightbar Thread: "From the Source"

This item has been on my list of blog post ideas for several years, but I've decided to rethink it since I haven't had the time to work on it. My goal was to survey law enforcement, DOT officials and lawmakers in various Midwest/Plains states on their personal opinions and professional interpretations of laws regarding the use of supplemental vehicle lighting (lightbars, strobes, flashers, etc) by storm chasers and spotters.

Rather than me attempting to tackle all of this myself, I decided that this might be a good 'crowdsourced' project for StormTrack members.

So, here are the parameters for this thread:

A.) This is not a debate thread for personal opinions on the subject. I'm requesting in advance that moderators remove posts that do not meet the criteria (or move them to a separate debate thread).

B.) This thread is to post ONLY results of the following survey questions from official sources outlined in item C:

- What is your professional opinion on storm chasers and storm spotters using supplemental warning lights on their personal vehicles?
- In your interpretation of the state code, are these lights legal? Are there any variants and/or colors that are legal to use?
- Do you believe the lights have any valid use? Why or Why not?
- (To law enforcement): Would you cite a driver for using these lights on his/her vehicle?

C.) For the purposes of this thread, I am interested in hearing the professional opinion from *official* sources ONLY - including:

- Law enforcement (local, county and state police)
- Emergency managers
- DOT officials
- State lawmakers

D.) I am interested primarily in hearing from officials from these states:

- Texas
- Oklahoma
- Kansas
- Colorado
- Missouri
- Illinois
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
- Nebraska
- Iowa
- Arkansas
- Wyoming

E.) Privacy: names or identifying information of officials will not be posted, unless permission is explicitly granted. In other words, simply note "County Sheriff in Kansas" or "State Highways official in Oklahoma".

F.) If you are YOURSELF an official source as described in item C, please by all means post directly in this thread.

Oklahoma law is specific in not allowing any vehicles to move on the roadway with flashing lights or light bars except where defined. Over the years they have added to the list of allowed vehicles. It used to be that only authorized emergency vehicles could use red or blue. They have since allowed wreckers to use those colors and even construction vehicles working on highways so long as the red or blue faces to the rear. Many of the chasers I witness driving with amber lights on are in violation of state law by operating on the roadway. If you pull over and park and active the lights I do not see that as a violation, however if you move and they are on you can be cited.
§12-227. Special Restriction on Lamps.
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 12-218, 12-218.1, 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 or loading or unloading a
vehicle in close proximity to traffic as needed for safety precautions or as a means of indicating
the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring unusual care in approaching, overtaking or
• 47 • Chapter 12 • Equipment of Vehicles
passing, as provided in Section 12-218.1 of this title;
5. Any vehicle as a means of indicating a right or left turn, as provided in Sections 12-206.1
and 12-606 of this title;
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;
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 12-218.2 of this title.
D. Blue lights are prohibited except as allowed in Sections 12-218, 12-218.1 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.
*12-227. Improper display of: A. (lighted lamp) (illuminating device).
B. front red light.
C. flashing light.
D. blue light.

In Iowa, the specific code is in or around Code of Iowa 321.423.

In essence, for civilian vehicles: No white to the rear when the vehicle is moving forward, no red to the front, blue is reserved for fire department and police use. Amber is a generic caution light, used on D.O.T. vehicles and everything from tow trucks to mom-and-pop pickup trucks doing snow removal. It is the least likely to draw ire from law enforcement when used any time vehicle hazard lights are appropriate.

Use of blue lights in Iowa is extremely specific. I am a (now retired) fire/medic for the Altoona IA Fire Department, and have a permit for blue lights. The permit is issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation and has to be signed off by the the FD Chief. It even includes the VIN of the vehicle using the lights, and a stipulation outlined on the permit includes "In the performance of official Fire Department duties", which would confine use to approximately 20 miles radius of Altoona.