Should tow truck drivers be allowed to use flashing blue lights on their trucks?

Could the color of the flashing lights on a tow truck save someone’s life?

Does color make a difference to you? This is a fascinating question to think about. Imagine driving and seeing flashing blue lights ahead. What’s your first reaction? Now, imagine the same scene and this time seeing orange lights. What’s your first reaction this time?

We ran this test across a few people. The results were consistent. The people that saw a blue flashing light said they were on alert.

On the other hand, when they saw an orange light we got responses like:

  • Slow down.
  • Be careful.
  • OK, it’s an orange light.
  • Construction work.
  • It didn’t mean anything.
  • Some said they even tuned it out.

They all said they felt different about seeing flashing blue lights. And that makes sense. Most people associate blue flashing lights with the police or a state trooper. In fact, law enforcement officers are quick to acknowledge that motorists simply don’t respect yellow lights. 

More importantly, scientific studies have demonstrated that blue lights are far more visible than any other color. This gives distracted drivers more time to see them before there is an accident. Now you can see why tow truck associations around the world are lobbying for legislation to allow tow trucks to be equipped with blue flashing lights. Are you supporting your local state tow truck association in this?

Some states are on board already with blue light laws:

  • In New Mexico, tow trucks have blue lights.
  • In Missouri, tow trucks can use red and blue lights in addition to amber.

Other states are trying to push laws through to legalize this.

  • In Illinois, they are trying to pass a law that would allow tow truck operators to use red, white, and blue lights on top of the truck, similar to what’s on police cars. Lawmakers hope the lights will add visibility and encourage people to move over. Tow operators will flash the lights when assisting drivers alongside the road. At that point, other drivers must yield the right-of-way and immediately move over to the next lane.
  • On March 24, 2017, New York, Senate Bill S5397 was proposed to authorize tow trucks and roadside service vehicles to use amber and blue lights when such vehicles are engaged in a hazardous roadside operation.
  • It’s not just the States that are passing legislation. Saskatchewan, Canada is on board too. Flashing blue and amber lights can now be used on tow trucks in Saskatchewan. The new Traffic Safety (Tow Trucks) Amendment Act permits blue lights to be used in conjunction with amber lights on tow trucks. This went into effect on May 16, 2017. Joe Hargrave, the minister for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), said in a press release: “Adding blue lights to these vehicles will alert motorists sooner, providing them ample time to slow to 60 kph [about 40 mph] while passing. It will help make highways safer for all road users, and help our roadside responders make it home safely.”

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What do fellow tow truck drivers report about changing the color of the lights?

One tow truck driver from Texas reported on a forum that when he ran multiple light colors it actually worked. He said the drivers moved over for amber and blue. He also said they moved over when he used amber and red. Other Texas tow truck drivers quote a study done at Texas A&M that showed amber and red to be the second most effective combination after amber and blue at night.

Why is this important for you?

Some jurisdictions will just not let you use blue lights…period. On the other hand, some areas are OK with you using rear-facing red lights. Drivers report this has been very effective in waking up distracted drivers. For example, Washington State and Oregon allow red and amber lights to be used on wreckers and tow trucks.

What if your state will not let you use any color except amber?

It’s time to get creative then. Try this on for size. On the rear of your truck mount red turn signals and brake lights next to your amber lights. How does this help you? When you’re on the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights and your flashing amber lights at the same time. At night from a distance, it will give the same effect as having a flashing red and amber light. It will wake up distracted drivers while allowing you to remain within the law’s boundaries. Remember, these are only hazard lights. However, they will give you the effect you’re looking for.

Let’s face it. The “Slow Down, Move Over” law isn’t helping tow truck drivers as much as they would like it to. As you may already know, every six days a tow truck driver loses their life on the roads. Many people still report that they didn’t know that tow trucks and wreckers were included in the “Slow Down, Move Over” law. Combine this with distracted drivers that are drinking, texting, and checking Facebook – and it spells disaster for emergency workers on the side of the road. Many say that police are not handing out enough tickets for guilty drivers. Expensive fines might help get people’s attention when a flashing light does not. 

We can help you save on your tow truck insurance.

Here at, we are dedicated to helping you manage your risks. We want you to drive safely so that you can get home to your families at night time. If we can help you in any way with your insurance questions, please reach out to us at the phone number above. We can also get you three free quotes on your towing insurance.

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