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But a clarification to this… A few years ago, anyone looking for a ‘lightbar’ was wanting a flashing beacon array for warning or emergency situations. Today a lightbar (or light bar) just as often refers to a high-output LED white light line up for 4WD or off-road night driving. Here we’re talking about emergency lightbars, not the 4WD ones.
Amber is by far the most the most popular warning light colour for two reasons:
Wherever you go, on and off road, you’ll see amber LED beacons and lightbars. With multiple mounting options, programmable flash patterns, high intensity light output and ease of installation, there’s an appropriate beacon or lightbar for your vehicle.
Not just anyone is allowed to fit lightbars or beacons to their vehicles—here’s an overview of the requirements and recommendations for road vehicles on NZ highways:
Equipment and vehicles used in 'mobile operations' on highways or road reserves must be fitted with one, and preferably two, amber beacons. Examples of mobile operations are: kerbside refuse collections, inspections, installing or removing pavement markers, mowing and weed spraying, marker post maintenance, litter and debris pick-up, pothole repairs, snow clearing/spreading grit, events held on public roads, surveying, monitoring traffic counts; and road construction activities such as rolling, grading, road marking, water carts and drag brooming.
An overdimension motor vehicle must be fitted with an amber beacon so that it is visible to approaching traffic and the beacon must operate:
during the hours of darkness, if the vehicle (including any load) is 3.7 m in width or less
at all times, if the vehicle (including any load) exceeds 3.7 m in width
at all times, if the vehicle is being escorted by a pilot vehicle
A pilot vehicle must be fitted with amber, or amber and purple beacons. A leading pilot vehicle can use an amber beacon for loads up to 5m wide. Amber and purple (sometimes called magenta) beacons are required if the load is greater than 5m wide). The next pilot vehicle should have an amber beacon with a sign that says 'wide load follows'.
Agricultural vehicles registered after 1 June 2013 must display and operate one or more amber beacons visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres. If the vehicle has a trailer or an implement that obscures the beacon, the trailer or implement also needs to be fitted with a beacon.
Only police vehicles may use red and blue combined beacons.
A vehicle recovery service vehicle may be fitted with one or two amber beacons
A vehicle operated in accordance with a traffic management plan approved by a road controlling authority may be fitted with one or two amber beacons
Where it is necessary to warn road users of a hazard due to the vehicle being stationary or being driven slowly, or to warn of activity in the vicinity, the vehicle may be fitted with one or two amber beacons.
Emergency vehicles (fire engines and ambulances) may be fitted with one or more red beacons and one or more white forward-facing beacons
An emergency vehicle operated by an enforcement officer, including customs officers, fishery officers, and marine reserve rangers, may be fitted with one or more blue beacons
A motor vehicle operated by a registered medical practitioner or a registered nurse or registered midwife may be fitted with one green beacon
Off-highway uses for beacons:
Apart from highway safety, warning beacons can be used:
This information is provided in good faith to give an overview of current NZ legislation. Check the legislation here, NZTA’s requirements here, requirements for on-road use of agricultural vehicles here, COPTTM’s requirements here and here, requirements for overdimension vehicles here, requirements for flash patterns and light output on page 78 here.