South Dakota

South Dakota Emergency Vehicle Light State Statutes

In the US, laws governing emergency vehicle lighting differ from state to state. As the title suggests, this article seeks to analyze the South Dakota state’s emergency vehicle light rules. Knowing these laws will help drivers escape fines, be they public employees or private employees.

More than anything else, we’ll discuss the use of specific colors of lights and the laws that allow their use. The emphasis is on emergency vehicles, such as police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulance vehicles etc. So let’s dive into details without further ado.

What does it classify as an emergency vehicle?

According to state statute 32-14-1(2) of South Dakota, an emergency vehicle is one of police department, fire department, or ambulance car. Also included in the statute are those vehicles belonging to the city department or corporation providing public service.

These vehicles are also used for emergency situations (as emergency vehicles), but must be authorized or designed by department (such as health department). There are also situations where the governor has the authority to declare an emergency (if the state is in a dire situation): he can (and should) organize and manage the crisis in the most optimal way in such a situation (see 34-48A-1).

Police Lights

In South Dakota, a combination of blue and red lights can be used by any law enforcement (city policy, sheriff, state troops, etc.) as described in the 32-17-45 statute. In addition, 32-31-4 suggests that those lights should be visible 180 degrees to the vehicle’s front side. 32-31-4 also indicates that white lights may be used by law enforcement, provided they are combined with red and blue police lights.

We should even mention that participating members of organized search and organized rescue units may be provided with rotating (360 degrees) flashing blue light, according to the 32-17-42. Needless to say, only when a vehicle is in duty and on its way to the emergency situation, should the lights be used.

Fire truck lights

According to the 32-17-42 fire trucks in South Dakota may use blue lights just like the search or rescue units. The head of a fire department authorizes fire trucks to use either a flashing light positioned at the front of their vehicles or a 360 degree visible rotating beacon light.

Like other emergency vehicles, fire truck drivers should only use the lights when responding to a fire or various emergency situations. Any unauthorized use of fire truck lights is considered a breach of this particular section and is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor (read 22-6-2).

On Volunteer Fire Fighter Lights

Although the 32-17-42 does not explicitly state that the blue lights can be used by the volunteer firefighters, we believe that this statute also includes them. It has to be said that anyone can buy warning lights but that doesn’t mean they can use it.

Similarly, the chief of the fire department has to authorize you to use the blue light (blue flashing, blue rotating beacon, or strobe light). If you imagine a scenario where firefighters from South Dakota are unable to cope with the critical or disastrous situation, some people are likely to volunteer for duty.

In such cases, fire department chief can allow the volunteers to use the blue lights. Still, volunteers should know they also need to look at other people’s safety on and off-road.

Ambulance Lights

Ambulance Lights Like police vehicles in South Dakota, ambulances may also use a combination of red, white, and blue lights, according to the 32-26-15. Both paramedics and emergency medical technicians can use a combination of the three lights either flashing, oscillating, or rotating.  The light must also be visible 180 degrees to the front of the vehicle (or cover the 180 degree angle).

It should also be noted that the Department of Health may authorize those medical technicians affiliated with the registered medical department to use rotating, oscillating, or flashing blue lights (like firefighter volunteers).

Like the firefighter volunteers, affiliated medical technicians need to be aware of how they use the permitted blue light to avoid a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Tow Truck Lights

According to State Law 32-17-10, the tow truck is defined as any vehicle intended for towing, pushing or transporting vehicles that are in need of such assistance (such as automobiles, trucks, tractors, etc.) A tow truck (or wrecker) can provide its services for commercial purposes, or can be used by a person for personal needs. One could possess, for example, a tow truck for towing, pushing or carrying those vehicles that that person owns.

32-17-10 It is expressly stated that tow trucks must be fitted with amber light or lights. These lights (or light) can be rotating beacon lights, flashing lights, or blinking lights (or any other kind of lights that are used in SD emergency vehicles). Most importantly a tow owner or wrecker uses amber lights.

Only when the tow truck or wrecker is used to tow, wreck, push or haul disabled vehicles should drivers use the lights however. The driver may also turn the lights on when they are called by law enforcement personnel. In this case, the driver uses light or lights to warn other drivers of their on-road presence. Note that breaching this statute is considered a misdemeanor of Class 2.

Road maintenance vehicles Lights

Road maintenance vehicles can be used for various activities, including snow removal, sweeping, lifting, road profiling, spraying, and so on. Virtually all US states suggest that their vehicles for road maintenance use amber construction vehicle lights so that other drivers don’t confuse them with other emergency vehicles, such as ambulance or law enforcement (see Wiki).

Any vehicle (such as truck or tractor) that has a width of more than 80 inches (at any part) must have four clearance lamps, according to the 32-17-14. Two lamps have to be installed on the extreme right and left front sides, and two on the back of those vehicles. The lights must be amber lights, visible from a distance not less than 500 ft (to that vehicle’s front and back).

In addition, 32-17-15 says that if the vehicles mentioned in 32-17-14 are also more than 30 feet long (in any part), three amber lights on the front and three red lights on the back of the vehicles should have been added as well. No more than thirty, and no less than six inches, of lights must be spaced out. The lights should be horizontally lined and visible from a distance of no less than 500 ft. Note that the fire vehicles are exempt from this statute (as per the 32-17-21 statute), as they are equipped with the lights that are specific to them.

Utility Vehicles (Power Trucks)

The same rules apply to power trucks (32-17-14 and 32-17-15) as for road maintenance vehicle lights.  Such vehicles are often over 80 inches wider, and should have four maps of amber clearance. In addition, larger power trucks, those over 30 ft long, should also feature three amber lights on the front, and three red lights at the back of their vehicles.

On Pilot Vehicle Lights (And Oversized Load Permits)

Any vehicle that is larger than 102 inches, larger than 14 feet and larger than 20 000 pounds (single axle), 34 000 pounds (tandem axle) and 42 000 pounds (Tridem axles) is considered to be overloaded, according to the South Dakota truck information. If they want to transport their load, such vehicles must apply for a special permit.

According to the requirements of the 70:03:01:21, the minimum requirement for escort vehicles is:

  • Escort vehicles must be licensed (motorcycles cannot be used as escort vehicles)
  • Escort vehicles must have one rotating amber light or two two-way flashing amber lights (these strobe lights must be at least 4 inches in diameter)
  • Escort vehicles must have “WIDE LOAD AHEAD” or “WIDE LONG LOAD” sign and letters must be signed. It should be placed at the front of a leading escort vehicle, or at the back of the trailing escort vehicle
  • Both sides of the sign must have 12 inches square flag, either bright red or orange colored
  • The sign must be covered or removed when the vehicle is not escorting

Security Vehicle Lights

Here we refer mainly to those vehicles that patrol mall parking lots. Security vehicles are not classified as law enforcement vehicles or emergency vehicles and therefore cannot use blue lights and blue light combinations (according to 32-17-45 and 32-17-42).

South Dakota does not actually have a law specifically designed for safety vehicles. But, 32-17-17 states that up to three auxiliary driving lamps can be used in any motor vehicle. They should be mounted no more than 24 inches and no less than 12 inches (above surface level) at the front of the vehicle at the height. Lights will comply with all of the 32-17-1 to 32-17-16 laws (see 32-17).

For more information on what lights are available to you, please call your State Highway Patrol office at: 605-773-3105

*Please note that these numbers are what we can currently find, and the numbers may have changed since this listing.