Can an officer use their lights just to get through an intersection?

Trooper Steve answers viewer questions

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answers viewer questions and shares tips about the rules of the road, helping Central Florida residents become better drivers by being better educated.

The most recent question addressed whether police officers are allowed to use their lights just to get through traffic.

“I have seen police cars approach an intersection, turn their lights on, go through the intersection then shut them off. I think a lot of us are curious, why do they do that?” a viewer asked.

[MORE: Ask Trooper Steve: Should you ride a bike with or against traffic?]

While answering the question, Trooper Steve explained a scenario in which that might happen.

“What I’m referring to is when you’re sitting at an intersection and suddenly you see a police car approaching. As it approaches, the officer doesn’t have their lights on and suddenly the emergency lights do come on and the police car goes through the intersection and then you see the officer shut them off,” Montiero said.

Montiero said it’s often not what it looks like.

“To you, this looks bad. To them, they know it looks bad. But there is an explanation for this. And because of the work and responsibility they’re tasked with, ultimately, it’s not a big concern to them and hopefully not to you after I explain this,” he said.

Trooper Steve said different situations call for different responses.

“I, myself, have done this plenty of times. Certain types of calls would dictate, maybe, less of a ‘louder’ response. For example, if you’re going to back up another unit who just asked for backup because a driver is getting uncooperative, if that officer can keep it under control and the driver doesn’t hear more sirens coming, maybe things could stay calm and that other backup unit won’t make that driver as nervous,” Montiero said.

He said the same goes for a police officer who is responding to a residential or business alarm, or even a call of something in progress but doesn’t want the suspect hearing them arrive from a distance.

Montiero said drivers should keep in mind that when officers have an in-car camera system or body camera, it is activated when the lights are turned on. He said sooner or later, a patrol officer would have to answer to their supervisor if it was found they were abusing their emergency equipment. And yes, according to Montiero, supervisors do constantly check up on their officers to keep an eye out for issues like that.

“So, with that said, remember that just because you may not like my answer, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Plenty of people see this and assume the officer is going home or going to something outside of their call. You can believe what you want, I’m simply answering this and saying that is not the case,” Montiero said. “I encourage the community to ride along with local law enforcement when they can so they can see what our men and women go through on a daily basis.”

Below are some more stories pertaining to police lights:

If you have a question for Trooper Steve, submit it here.

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