New law helps firefighters answer the call

But ‘Wig-Wag” lights won’t help crews wriggle out of tickets


DOVER — It’s going to be easier for some firefighters and ambulance crews to get through traffic and to the firehouse thanks to a new law signed Thursday by Gov. Jack Markell.

Under the law, firefighters and ambulance crews, specifically designated by their departments as first responders will be able to have so-called “wig-wag” light kits installed on their cars as an aftermarket item. Previously emergency crews could have the light kits, which rapidly cycle a car’s high- and low-beam headlights, but they had to be factory-installed.

This new law will make it easier for firefighters to do their jobs and to keep us safe,” Markell said. “I consider protecting Delawareans’ safety one of state government’s most fundamental responsibilities.”

The lights will alert other drivers that a firefighter’s answering an emergency call with the hope that they’ll give way for the responders. Unlike traditional red and blue emergency lights, however, there’s no legal requirement for motorists to surrender the right of way. The light kits also don’t give personnel a free pass when it comes to traffic laws, said Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, who sponsored the bill.

“This does not make first responders emergency vehicles,” Ennis said. “They still have to obey all the traffic laws … But this will provide an affordable way for our volunteer firefighters to get these lights which we hope will make it easier for them to get to the firehouse and protect us.”

The new law also cleans up language in state law about which fire and ambulance personnel are entitled to traditional emergency lights for their personal vehicles. The law was supported by the volunteer fire service and by law enforcement. It cleared the Senate on a 20-0 vote and was approved by the House on a 41-0 vote.

“Anything we can do to help our volunteer firefighters to perform their duties more effectively not only helps them, but helps them protect residents throughout the state,” said Rep. E. Bradford “Brad” Bennett, D-Dover South, the lead House sponsor. “this is a simple, straightforward law that will do just that.”