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Auxiliary Emergency Lights
Does today’s emergency vehicle need more than a lightbar? The lightbar produces a 360-degree warning, so what else is needed?
Spreading the light sources out across the vehicle adds perspective and distance judging for the motorist. Once their attention is caught, an emergency vehicle with lights spread out across the vehicle all the motorist to better judge the approach speed of the emergency vehicle. In heavy traffic, the motorist may not see the roof-mounted lightbar, but they can’t miss the dash and deck-mounted (or hood and trunk-mounted) lights.
In urban conditions, the motorist approaching an intersection may see the outside rear view mirror-mounted lights well before the angled lights on the roof-mounted lightbar. And with the patrol car parked sideways to the traffic flow, like we always seem to do, B-pillar lights will be seen a long time before the side lights from even the best 360-degree lightbar.
LED light modules are available in sizes and light, focusing abilities for all these applications. Consider them. Think about adding LED corner lights in addition to the lightbar. That will give the motorist almost a 4-foot visual differential. This will give them a visual approach signal, whether they are approaching the patrol vehicle, or the patrol vehicle is overtaking them.
Mirror and B-Pillar
Give special consideration to the outside rearview mirror and B-pillar interior lights for two reasons. First, these are pointed specifically at the area of visual concern, and the motorist does not have to wait for the lightbar to cycle around its 360-degree pattern to get to them. Fractions of a second matter. Second, like the corner lights, the height difference from the outside mirror to the roof-mounted lightbar helps the motorist make visual judgments.
Patrol officers seem addicted to grille lights. Weatherproof LEDs are available for all sorts of locations in the front of the vehicle, like the push bumper. The coolest location is the fog light location on the Dodge Charger in the lower front fascia. (The police package Charger is not available with fog lights.)
The purpose of grille lights is to add coverage in addition to the main warning signal. So, mount these LED modules where they can be seen! Angle them slightly if they are mounted on a push bumper. Where is the worst location to mount these grille lights? Behind the grille where the finned grille opening blocks the emergency light to the side. Much of the advantage of grille lights is defeated if the LEDs are only visible directly in front of the vehicle.
Dash and Deck
The dash has become so crowded with cameras and radar, and the dual airbag deployment zones are so large, it is difficult to mount emergency lights on the dash. Old favorites like in front of the rearview mirror are no longer available. And even headliner-mounted interior lights can be a challenge with all the other gear mounted in the front. Not to mention that headliner-mounted lights may block some vision when looking forward / upward.
Unless you are buying emergency lights for a slicktop vehicle, putting interior lights in the front may not be necessary. Perhaps outside mirror, exposed grille and B-pillar lights are better choices.
The rear deck is a whole other matter. The headliner-mounted lights may restrict rear vision a bit. But the rear deck is a good spot for low-profile lights, especially behind today’s elevated rear headrests. These become essentially flush with the center high mounted stop lamps.
Again, all these auxiliary lights add a height perspective to the patrol vehicle’s warning system with the high-mounted roof lights; the mid-level deck, outside mirror and some grille or push bumper lights; and the low-mounted corner and some grille-fascia lights.
The police vehicle does not have to be a Christmas tree. However, it does have to produce an immediately recognizable warning signal to all motorists and pedestrians in a clear enough manner and in enough time for them to react.
Published in Law and Order, Apr 2009
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