My name is Ken Morton, and I am the Chief of Williston Fire/EMS. Over the past four years, I have been a part of putting forth legislation to allow ONE blue light on the rear of a Fire, EMS, State Hazmat, or other Rescue/USAR/Etc. vehicle. Each time the proposed bills have been met with resistance. The purpose of this requested legislation is not to cause Fire and EMS vehicles to have blue lights facing the front and allowing them to appear to be law enforcement vehicles, but, rather to allow for more colored options to get the attention of vehicles approaching us from the rear – hopefully, to cause them to slow down, and possibly avoid a crash. This legislative change is for Department owned vehicles only – not personal vehicles.
This session, there is a representative who is dedicated to protecting our safety, and is willing to fight for this bill. His name is Mark Huntley, he is a representative from Cavendish, and he has proposed a bill allowing for that ONE blue light to be located on the rear of a vehicle – facing the rear. The proposed bill is House 259. I spoke with representative Huntley last week regarding Bill “H 259 - Blue Light Legislation”, and he feels the chances for approval of this important safety issue are in jeopardy of failing, due to resistance and influence from members of the DMV.
I have to tell all of you, I am pretty fed up with this road block and cat and mouse game. This bill relates directly to the safety of our Firefighters and EMTs, due to increased visibility for our Fire Apparatus and Ambulances. The arguments I am told the DMV leadership is making against this bill are false and misleading. They are citing such concerns as “the motorist will be confused as to what type of vehicle they are approaching” or “the cost to the taxpayer will be great if we need to change our forms” or “forcing every Fire Department to add blue lights will cost thousands of dollars” or “next, wrecker companies will need to have blue lights”. In the Northeast; Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all allow blue lights on fire vehicles - there will not be confusion, blue lights are allowed on non-police vehicles throughout the region. Forms get printed regularly – adding new verbage to forms is the cost of doing business. No agency will be forced to add blue lights – it will be elective. Last, wrecker lights have nothing to do with the safety of Vermont’s Firefighters and EMT’s.
Overall, there is a complete reluctance from DMV to afford Fire/EMS vehicles the same level of safety protection, by displaying ONE blue light, as is allowed on law enforcement vehicles when they display red lights (which MANY, MANY law enforcement agencies across Vermont are doing without repercussion). Sadly, there are many Law Enforcement Personnel throughout Vermont who are in support of allowing ONE blue light on our vehicles. I suspect, they would also be willing to support allowing a red lens on Police vehicles.
What is not getting to the legislators, since the bill has not been heard, are the following facts; Of the three predominant types of color blindness, only one color can be seen by all three – that color is blue. Red appears grey in two of the three types. Studies in several states have shown the advantage to displaying different colors of lights (blue and red), based on not just the ability of a motorist to identify an emergency vehicle by seeing several different colored lights in the spectrum, but, also, being able to identify red or blue more quickly, based on the time of day.
Imagine a $600,000 Fire Truck, or the new Vermont Haz-Mat Team truck being hit by a motorist due to not slowing down adequately, and totaling the truck. Worse yet, a preventable accident injuring or killing a responder. All because Fire and EMS vehicles could have been afforded the ability to display one more color of light in the spectrum? Not a good outcome either way.
I have copied this e-mail to Chief Al Barber of the Hinesburg Fire Department, and to the Vermont Ambulance Association, and am asking them to forward it to all members of the Vermont State Firefighters Association, and all members of the Vermont Ambulance Association. I ask all persons who read this to call your State Representatives (both Senators and Representatives) immediately, and ask that they support protecting Firefighters and EMT’s throughout Vermont, by supporting this legislation. Again, the sponsoring Representative is Mark Huntley of Cavendish. His number is 802-236-6722.
Last, please let me know of any Law Enforcement personnel who are willing to step up and support this initiative, or, have them contact me.
Thank you, in advance, for your support!
Kenneth N. Morton, Jr.
Williston Fire Department
645 Talcott Road
Williston, VT 05495