Lights and siren: A review of emergency vehicle warning systems

Robert A. De Lorenzo, Mark A. Eilers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Emergency medical services providers routinely respond to emergencies using lights and siren. This practice is not without risk of collision. Audible and visual warning devices and vehicle markings are integral to efficient negotiation of traffic and reduction of collision risk. An understanding of warning system characteristics is necessary to implement appropriate guidelines for prehospital transportation systems. The pertinent literature on emergency vehicle warning systems is reviewed, with emphasis on potential health hazards associated with these techniques. Important findings inferred from the literature are 1) red flashing lights alone may not be as effective as other color combinations, 2) there are no data to support a seizure risk with strobe lights, 3) lime-yellow is probably superior to traditional emergency vehicle colors, 4) the siren is an extremely limited warning device, and 5) exposure to siren noise can cause hearing loss. Emergency physicians must ensure that emergency medical services transportation systems consider the pertinent literature on emergency vehicle warning systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1331-1335
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • ambulance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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