Emergency lights and flashing beacons, explained by the FTA

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The FTA provides guidance on what the different colours used on flashing lights denote, with a Q&A from Eamonn Brennan. 


Emergency lights and flashing beacons

Blue rotating or flashing lights may be carried by certain emergency vehicles. This includes police vehicles, ambulances, fire engines, coastguards, bomb disposal vehicles, mountain rescue and vehicles used in connection with a nuclear accident or incident involving radioactivity.

Amber rotating or flashing lights must be carried by vehicles that cannot exceed 25mph – when used on dual carriageways with a speed limit in excess of 50mph – unless the vehicle is used during daytime hours and is therefore not fitted with front or rear position lamps.

The beacon(s) must be fitted so it can easily be seen by other drivers, especially if the vehicle is towing a trailer or is carrying a large amount of goods, and it must be lit always.

Where appropriate, the beacons can be fitted solely to the towing vehicle or trailer or even both, as long as at least one beacon is visible from any direction. Vehicles that only use a dual carriageway to cross it in the quickest possible manner are exempt.

Amber rotating or flashing lights may also be carried by certain other vehicles.

This includes vehicles involved with breakdowns and road clearance, special types, abnormal load escort vehicles, refuse vehicles, road cleansing and maintenance vehicles and vehicles used by HMRC for testing fuels.

Breakdown vehicles may only switch on amber flashing lights in connection with work at or near an accident or breakdown, or while towing a broken-down vehicle.

Breakdown vehicles may also carry additional white lamps, but these may only be used to illuminate the site of an accident or breakdown. White lights must always be directed so they do not dazzle or inconvenience other road users.

Green rotating or flashing lights may be used in an emergency on doctor’s vehicles.

All emergency lights, whether blue, amber or green, must be mounted on the vehicle so that the centre of the lamp is at least 1.2m from the ground and the light is visible from any point at a reasonable distance.

The light of any one lamp must be displayed either by rotating or flashing between 60 and 240 times a minute.


Highlights of the FTA’s Member Advice Centre answered by FTA manager of van information Eamonn Brennan



A: No, that’s not true. The EU Drivers Hours Regulations (EC 561/2006) make no reference to who decides when reduced rests can be taken.

As long as an employer remains compliant with the regulations, they have freedom to schedule reduced daily or weekly rests.

But employers must ensure any changes are in line with the driver’s contract of employment, and are reasonable requests to ask of the driver.

FTA advises employers to double-check the driver’s contract of employment – including any terms and conditions – to make sure the request is not in breach of it.

If a driver does have issues with the new shift patterns, make sure you take the time to understand why. After all, there may be personal or health issues you are not aware of that need to be carefully handled to avoid discrimination.


A: A suspended licence – whether due to medical, disciplinary or other reasons – still fulfils the purpose of ‘driver identity’ and the CPC training records can be uploaded. However, as the driver’s C1 licence is suspended, they would not be able to carry out any training involving on-road driving activities in the suspended vehicle category.



A: Yes, he is still permitted to drive. The DVLA should be notified immediately of the change of address, but in the meantime, he can continue to drive on public roads provided the driving licence categories (featured on back of a licence) are valid and in date.

Any penalties or fixed penalty notices for offences that do not result in a disqualification – but are issued with penalty points – require the driver to surrender their licence to a court for the points to be added.

If a driver fails to do this, DVLA will write to the driver (latest address recorded) to request the return of the licence to the agency. It will give drivers 28 days to comply before the licence is revoked.

If a driver has not updated their address, the letters will be sent to their previous residence, and drivers run the risk of having their licence revoked without their knowledge.

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  • Dave - 18/10/2019 13:05

    is there any reason why a break down vehicle cannot use red flashing beacons. i ask this as a roadside technician for a well known firm of very nice men lol the reason i ask is i have nearly been killed several times on the new smart motorways nothing smart about them at all it seems nobody takes any notice of amber beacons anymore because the road network is full of them its a common sight. but you see a blue or red or green you take notice and avoid

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