As I was driving, a fire truck with sirens blaring became visible on the road behind me. Followed by the truck was an ambulance. Both were painted red.

It got me wondering why police cars aren’t red too.

I presume that the red (or occasionally yellow) on fire vehicles is to make them more visible on the road…as if you wouldn’t spot a 50′ ladder truck no matter what color it was painted. Perhaps red was to align with the color of fire, but it is just as likely to mean “emergency” as in the red cross.

Police vehicles started off as “black and whites,” but have evolved into more white or black — or even silver, blue or combinations. There is no standard police vehicle color, even on the marked cars. 

In Europe, police have placed greater prominence on visibility than design and many communities have painted their protection vehicles in neon colors including yellow, orange or green. Still no standardization, but at least rationale as to why they did it.

Wouldn’t people benefit from a) greater visibility of vehicles that may be traversing the streets at high rates of speed and b) more uniformity in look so as to instantly know that this was an emergency vehicle? The undercover cars could remain stealth, while the marked cars could sport a highly reflective design.

Think about how this relates to your organization. Are you doing things just because you have always done them? Are there instances where some standardization would be helpful? Can you see your choice of colors through new eyes?

It may be beneficial to police your choices to make them with intentionality.

beth triplett

Police car in Norway

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