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January 27, 2004
DOT and USFA initiate research

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the United States Fire Administration (USFA), and with the Department of Transportation (DOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office have initiated a partnership with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to research the effect and how to effectively mitigate the disorientation of motorists caused by the day and nighttime use of emergency warning lights.

"Year after year approximately 25 percent of firefighters killed in the line of duty are responding or returning from incidents, with the majority of the fatalities from vehicle crashes," said Michael D. Brown Homeland Security Under Secretary for emergency preparedness and response. "FEMA and USFA are pleased to partner with USDOT and SAE to work to mitigate this second leading cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities."

"Saving lives is the Bush administrationís top transportation priority, and this partnership underscores our commitment," Mary E. Peters, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration said. "Our goal is to make Americaís roads safe for all, and that means protecting firefighters and emergency responders as well as travelers. Weíre committed to their safety, and this partnership will help prevent loss of life," Peters emphasized.

This research will include the effects of emergency lighting on normal, impaired, and drowsy drivers (also known as the "moth effect"). All emergency lighting systems will be examined as part of this effort - including incandescent, halogen, strobe, and light-emitting diode (LED) systems.

Research findings from this project may be forwarded to national-level consensus standards organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and others in the development of relevant/related standards. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and their Emergency Warning Lighting and Devices Standards Committee may use the findings in the development of their own standards.

"SAE is pleased to work with DOT and USFA in this research effort to support the safety of firefighters and other emergency responders," said SAE President Jack Thompson. "This project emphasizes our long-term commitment to enhance vehicle safety through local, national, and international research and awareness programs."

Further information about this research initiative as well as other USFA emergency vehicle project efforts may be found on the USFA web site at