Middlesex-London EMS adding blue lights to its fleet

The Highway Traffic Act was amended July 1 to allow ambulances and fire trucks to use flashing blue lights, in addition to the usual red. Some ambulances in London have already made the switch.

The blue lights are easier to see than red, according to the paramedic service's superintendent of education

A Middlesex-London ambulance in downtown London, Ont. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

London's ambulances are getting a makeover this summer. Instead of flashing red lights, seven of the Middlesex London Paramedic Service's fleet will have flashing blue ones. 

The shift is thanks to a July 1 amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, which allows ambulances and fire trucks to use flashing red or blue lights. Previously, only police were allowed to use the blue lights.

Jay Loosley, superintendent of education for the Middlesex London Paramedic Service, said the transition is about safety. 

Blue lights tend to be more visible than red or yellow in the sunlight, said Loosley, citing a 2008 study from the University of Michigan.

They're also more visible at night, he said.

"When you think about it, when you're at night and you see a bunch of red lights, they could just be tail lights or car lights," said Loosley. 

"It's not that big of an alert to the driver, but when you see a bright blue light that's something different."

The Middlesex London Paramedic Service is an early adopter of the blue lights because they were already scheduled to get a handful of new ambulances this month, Loosley said.

For now, the service still has a mix of red and blue light ambulances, but as other ambulances are retired they'll be replaced by vehicles with blue lights. 

Although it will take some time to fully transition the ambulance service, Loosley said he's confident the decision was the right one.

"It was just easy to say, 'Let's go with what the research has shown, and let's bring the blue lights in,'" said Loosley.