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Emergency Services: Sirens

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to hold discussions with the police, fire and ambulance authorities with a view to reducing noise and light pollution from sirens and blue lights in central London, especially during the hours of darkness. [HL2311]

The use of sirens by the police and other emergency services is controlled by Regulation 99 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. This permits the use of sirens only when it is necessary or desirable to do so either to indicate to other road-users that the vehicle is responding to an urgent incident or to warn other road-users of the presence of the vehicle on the road.

Use of blue warning lights is controlled under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, as amended. These permit blue lights to be fitted to emergency vehicles, including vehicles used for police purposes. The aim is to prevent excessive use, as this could diminish the impact of the lights. Use of the lights is not mandatory but they may be used at emergency scenes, to indicate urgency when on the way to such scenes, or to warn others of the presence of the vehicle or a hazard on the road.

It is for the emergency services to consider how best to use sirens and lights for maximum effectiveness and minimum environmental disturbance. Subject to the regulations and any guidance from those services, drivers of emergency vehicles are expected to use their professional judgment to decide when and where the use of sirens and blue lights is appropriate. Drivers ought to be fully aware that sirens must be used with restraint, particularly at night, so as not to cause a nuisance to residents or other road users. There will, however, always be occasions when it is necessary for the emergency services to use sirens and/or blue lights in the interests of road safety and the protection of the public.