OLR Amended Bill Analysis

sHB 6285 (as amended by House "A" and "B")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF FLASHING WHITE HEAD LAMPS BY FIREFIGHTERS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL PERSONNEL.

SUMMARY:

This bill allows any vehicle operated by volunteer fire department members or volunteer emergency medical technicians to use flashing white headlamps on the way to a fire scene or medical emergency. The vehicle operator must get written authorization from the town's chief law enforcement officer and may only use the headlamps in the town or "from a personal residence or place of employment" if located in an adjoining town. The authorization may be revoked for violation.

The bill increases, from $50 to $200, the maximum fine for willfully or negligently obstructing or impeding an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency. (The possible prison term, which the bill does not change, is a maximum of seven days.) The bill allows a police officer to issue a written warning or summons to a vehicle owner when he gets a signed affidavit about a violation from an emergency vehicle operator. The report must state the vehicle's license plate number, color, and type and the date, approximate time, and place where the violation occurred. The provision applies to ambulance or emergency medical service organization vehicles responding to emergency calls or taking a patient to a hospital; fire department vehicles responding to a fire or emergency; and police vehicles responding to an emergency or pursuing fleeing suspects.

The bill also expressly requires emergency vehicles to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus displaying flashing red signal lights and to remain until the lights are turned off. The provision applies to fire department and police vehicles, public service company or municipal department ambulances, or emergency vehicles designated or authorized by the motor vehicles commissioner.

*House Amendment "A" allows use of flashing head lamps from a personal residence or place of employment.

*House Amendment "B" adds the provision on negligent obstruction of emergency vehicles and the stop requirement for emergency vehicles.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2001

USE OF FLASHING HEAD LAMPS

Under current law, the following may use flashing white head lamps on their way to an emergency: (1) local fire marshals and emergency management directors and (2) ambulances and vehicles being operated by the chief executive officer of an emergency medical service organization. By law, the chief executive of these organizations must provide the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) commissioner every January with the name, address, and registration number plates of vehicles that will use flashing white head lamps. It is not clear if this requirement applies to the groups the bill adds.

BACKGROUND

Flashing Lights

Another law, which this bill does not change, generally prohibits flashing lights on vehicles other than school buses, except to indicate a turn and, in certain designated colors, on:

1. vehicles used by volunteer or civil preparedness fire companies;

2. certain emergency and maintenance vehicles (with a DMV permit);

3. overweight or oversize vehicles with Department of Transportation permits or their escort vehicles;

4. vehicles used by rural mail carriers;

5. vehicles for 15 or fewer handicapped students when the vehicles stop to pick up or let off students;

6. stationary vehicles at a fire scene;

7. rescue vehicles;

8. ambulances;

9. vehicles used by local fire marshals or directors of emergency management;

10. vehicles used by chief executive officers of emergency medical service organizations; and

11. vehicles used by members of volunteer ambulance associations or companies.

The law also allows motorists to use flashing lights in certain contexts where they are traveling slowly or disabled and stopped in areas that can create a hazard.

Legislative History

On April 19, the House referred the bill (File 274) to the Public Health Committee, which reported it favorably on April 25 without any changes.

Related Bill

sHB 5062 as amended by House "A" and "B" and Senate "A" increases to $200 the maximum fine for willfully or negligently obstructing an emergency vehicle. It includes (1) a fine for emergency vehicle operators who drive without due regard to the safety of property and persons and (2) the stop provision for school buses contained in this bill.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

22

Nay

0

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

28

Nay

0

Public Health Committee

Yea

25

Nay

0