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Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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Use of ultra-bright cop light bars questioned

October 17th, 2012 by travis baker

The in basket: Back in the dark nights of January, Phil Menees wrote, “Tonight at about 1845 departing Bremerton headed to Gorst on the inbound lane was a state patrol (car) with his lights on with a car pulled to the side of the road.

“To me it seems the bar lights are ever getting brighter. In the rain with oncoming lights and reflections these flashing lights are close to visually debilitating. Is there a reason they cannot be turned off after gaining the attention of the car the officer is concentrating on?

“I know the LEDs are the new thing. The unmarked cars seem to be doing just fine without the continuous use of these lights.”

I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the local state patrol office whether this is something his department has discussed.

The out basket: “The newer light bars are much brighter than older types,” Russ replied. “When an officer is on a traffic stop, it is in the interest of all, especially the officer, that motorists observe them clearly. The motorist can then comply with the MOVE OVER LAW, which many motorists still ignore completely.

“Officers are fully aware that the new LED lights are much brighter,” Russ continued. “There are situations when officers turn off portions of the light system after the initial stop and use rear deck lights and/or reduce the overhead lamps to just the outer strobe lights.

“However, in most situations there will be some form of lights used until the stop is cleared. Officers in the WSP are left with the discretion of what lights they use based on personal safety. Usually the shoulders of roadways where officers are stopping vehicles are very narrow. Officers need every advantage they can get to keep safe.

“As for unmarked cars, these vehicles, of course, do not have overhead light bars. They do usually  have very bright rear deck or strobes built into the tail lamp and headlights.

“The WSP has vehicles, including unmarked vehicles, hit from the rear on a fairly regular basis. These collisions are not caused by lights being too bright, rather they are caused by careless or impaired drivers.

“Motorists should, when observing a police traffic stop ahead, move to the left if possible and slow down. If not possible to move to the left, they should slow down. The worse the visibility and lighting, the more they should slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.

Doing this will greatly assist officers and all motorists in keeping safe on our roadways.”

Russ’ last paragraph essentially describes the requirements of the Move Over Law he mentions as being routinely violated. You can be ticketed for staying in the outside lane and not slowing down when passing an emergency vehicle with its emergency lights on.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Use of ultra-bright cop light bars questioned”

  1. Mike From Roswell Says:

    Travis,

    Most LED lightbars, including the Whelen models used by the WSP are equipped with a reduced-output (dim) mode for just the reason Phil cites, the Trooper simply needs to use it. Overly bright LED’s have, in fact, been cited as contributory to the increase in collisions with stopped emergency vehicles. While I agree with the Trooper as regards to operating one’s vehicle safely in the vicinity of Emergency (and Utility) vehicles I feel that he needs to acknowledge that these lights ARE a potential hazard to the motoring public and focus on addressing our concerns rather than simply blaming the civilians for a known, inherent, problem with an established solution (hit the dimmer switch!)

  2. Brandon Says:

    Mike makes a great point, most LED light bars can and should be dimmed once the police officer or patrolman is stopped. The LEDs can be extremely bright, and are without any doubt a potential hazard to drivers on the road. Like any other tool used by officers, they need to be used responsibly.

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You can reach Travis Baker at tvisb@wavecable.com

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