Change in Vehicle Law Recommended
The arrest of a New York State fire chief for speeding while answering an alarm of fire has revealed a peculiar quirk in the state’s vehicle and traffic laws. (See FIRE ENGINEERING, January 1957, page 78) According to an opinion of the Counsel to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, a fire chief could not be charged with speeding if he was driving an official “fire vehicle,” but could be if he was driving a privately-owned car over the speed limits.
As a result, the Joint Legislative Committee on Fire Laws has decided to recommend to the 1957 State Legislature that it amend the law to permit fire and assistant fire chiefs, county and deputy county fire coordinators, county and assistant county fire marshals and ambulance operators to exceed regular speed limits both in “fire vehicles” and in other vehicles while engaged in emergency work provided a distinctive colored light is being displayed, a siren or bell sounded, and the vehicle is driven with caution in the circumstances.
Senator S. Wentworth Horton, Suffolk County, Chairman of the Committee said, “Most of the fire officials in the State use their own cars for official business. Only the larger cities, villages and fire districts have an official chief’s car which could be classed as a ‘fire vehicle’. . . . The Joint Legislative Committee on Fire Laws believes that the purpose of the call is the important tiling and that the power to exceed normal speed limits in emergencies should not depend on who owns the vehicle.”