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The Evolution of Amber Lights

If you drive anywhere, especially in urban centres, you'll likely come across a vehicle adorned with amber caution beacons, sticks, and arrows warning of a situation ahead. Although the concept of amber warning lights is relatively simple, they're the culmination of pioneering technology advancements designed to keep our roads and communities safe.

The use of emergency lights started in the 1930s when red emergency lights were placed on the rooftops of police cars, making them instantly recognizable to civilian drivers – and criminals! Over time, the technology evolved to rotating gumball lights, followed by light-bars in the 1960s.

These days, warning lights are also used to ensure that non-emergency vehicles are visible. However, instead of the traditional red or blue used on police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances, amber lights were mounted on non-emergency vehicles for high-impact visibility.


Why Do We Use Amber Lights On Non-Emergency Vehicles?

The choice to use amber beacons is simple: yellow and amber are the first of the visible colours our eyes pick up. From a scientific point of view, this is because yellow sits almost right in the spectrum of visible light, making it one of the strongest colours we perceive.

Amber also ties in nicely with our culture. For example, we're taught the meaning of traffic lights at an early age. These colour associations stick with us for life. Red always means "Danger: stop" (like the lights on emergency vehicles). Green is associated with go. Amber traffic lights signify "Proceed with caution", making them perfect for use on construction and utility vehicles. 

Amber lights are bright, robust, and extremely powerful tools to help increase the visibility of non-emergency vehicles and convey the presence of work zones and potentially dangerous highway conditions.

LED: A Revolutionary New Innovation

As the need for amber warning lights grew across North America, the market introduced different SAE classes and mounting options to satisfy the needs of the growing variety of applications. Over time, lighting manufacturers looked for more energy-efficient alternatives to traditional halogen bulbs or gas-discharge strobe lights.

Although they set the industry standard for decades, halogen lights needed a high amount of current to operate, which can shorten the lifespan of the vehicle's battery. They also rated poorly in energy efficiency, losing up to 95 percent of their energy to heat.

Gas-discharge strobe lights also failed when it came to energy efficiency. The strobe light generates a high amount of intense and concentrated heat, significantly reducing the lifespan of the flash tube.

The industry needed an energy-efficient alternative that didn't drain vehicle batteries while ensuring optimal performance.

Enter LED technology.

LED lamps revolutionized the lighting industry for both emergency and non-emergency vehicles. They only consume between 25 and 35% of the power that halogen and gas-discharge strobe lights require to operate, giving LED a service life over 10 times as long. Not only do they need less energy and last longer – often 70,000 hours or more – they're actually brighter and more visible than their traditional counterparts.

LED technology revolutionized the industry for good, as innovative new light products with enhanced functionality were introduced.

Development of New Amber Light Products

As visibility requirements increased due to public safety demands, amber beacons and light bars expanded into a wider selection of products to satisfy the changing needs of construction and utility fleets.

These new innovations in amber light applications include:

·      Traffic arrows

·      Traffic directors

·      Industrial warning lights

·      Perimeter lighting

·      Warning sticks

As industry needs change, amber light technology will continue to evolve with new technology and advancements to satisfy the needs of end-users.

READ MORE: Embracing Technology For Better Product Development

The Market Outlook For Amber Lights

According to an October 2020 report published by Fact.MR, the global emergency warning lights industry is expected to experience a steady growth rate of nearly 4% between 2020 – 2030. 

American and Canadian governments at all levels are continuing to invest in infrastructure projects such as roads and highways, public works, and housing. These investments are expected to drive the demand for warning lights and increase market size due to laws requiring construction and other industrial fleets to install and use emergency warning lights to protect public safety.

While North America is still expected to dominate the emergency lights market over the long term, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 3.3% through 2030, the region isn't immune to the ongoing effects of government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions placed on imports and exports severely crippled the global supply chain, especially during 2020. 

Fleet operators who need amber warning lights for their construction, utility, and escort vehicles, tow trucks, snowploughs, and other safety applications are encouraged to continue buying domestically manufactured products to ensure adequate supply and fast delivery.

Tough, durable SWS amber warning lights are built and shipped out of Niagara Falls, Canada. Give us a call the next time you need to outfit your fleet with industrial-grade light safety products.

Tom Chopp is Managing Partner at SWS Warning Lights Inc. He can be reached at 905-357-0222 or tom@warninglightsinc.com.