New law makes volunteer cars more visible to drivers

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ROCHESTER, Ill. (NEXSTAR)—By law, people are supposed to switch lanes or move over for emergency vehicles with flashing lights when possible. For volunteer fire departments, getting to the scene may be more difficult as they do not always have equipment that is as recognizable as traditional emergency vehicles. A new law that took effect New Year’s Day hopes to make some volunteer cars more visible to drivers.

Volunteer deputy and assistant fire chiefs around Illinois are now able to operate vehicles with rotating or flashing red and white lights. Previously, the right to run these lights was reserved for the fire chief. All volunteer firefighters in Illinois are already permitted to display flashing blue lights in their personal vehicles when responding to emergencies but lawmakers advanced the law to make sure people are able to better identify vehicles during fire emergencies. While the law is meant to help everyone around the state, one volunteer department chief in Central Illinois said it may not make much of an impact here.

“Depending on the metropolitan areas, I am thinking maybe the Northern Illinois areas where they have a higher-density population, traffic is possibly a lot grater than it is in Central Illinois. We don’t have much of an issue in our district, because we are in a rural area and traffic is not that bad but departments that might have some interstates and tollways in their areas, it might improve their response time to the scene of their call or to the fire station quicker,” said Rochester Fire Protection District Chief John Archer.

While drivers need to move emergency vehicles when possible, lights in the personal cars of volunteers are known as courtesy lights, not requiring drivers to move by law but requesting the driver do so to help them get to a scene faster.

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