I think the marking increased progressively. First stripe down the side then reflective stripe, it was mainly the motorway traffic cars, then all traffic cars which resulted in most police vehicles with many of the traffic cars now in dark or plan colours so people don't notice them! Very like women's clothes, all the forces want the latest fashion and to be one ahead of rival police forces!
There are different Battenberg colours fo different emergency services and I think the colours are "protected" when reflective.
The Met Police had the famous jam sandwich scheme and I think it is still seen on some vehicles. The battenberg schemes are very effective and make the vehicles highly visible. the one thing that doesn't work is the siren/wailer on motorways and generally you can't hear them until they are very close or passing, in fact most of the time they don't seem to use them. When sirens are used they seem to have different volume but with modern in car entertainment played at high volumes, along with inability to use rear view mirrors frequently, they need to be louder or directional. We often see police cars seeming chasing the car in front of them but in reality the driver hasn't actually noticed them. A bit easier at night time though.
The old bells were in common usage for all emergency vehicles when I was a kid but rarely heard or seen, only sometimes at night when I was in bed. My first sighting was in Eltham in the early sixties and it was a black saloon (Westminster?) with a single blue occulting light and a lit up POLICE sign. Not much traffic them but it still approached the red lights slowly. The last time I head a bell on an active police car was in Highgate in 1974 on a lunch break from work, that was a white Triumph 2000.
The loudest, mainly due to narrow lane, was in Central London when a red police car switched on its two-tones just behind me. That hurt my ears and made a few people jump. This was the time of the IRA bombings and it was quite common for police cars and motorcycles to be seen travelling the wrong way on one way streets or for the bikes to mount the pavements. The roads were normally so congested and fire and ambulance struggled to make headway. A lot different now with the congestion charge as prior to this foot was quicker than bus - just.
I think most of the sirens are quite directional so people often see police car running on siren but do not hear the siren because they are not in front of it so think it is not switched on. The control unit can be switched to give different sounds, they often change it at a junction because some sounds (pink/white noise?) give more information on direction than others.
A traffic cop used to be active on a pre-WWW bulletin board and I remember him writing that he ALWAYS stopped for a red traffic light even if only for a millisecond! A friend who is ex-police (not traffic) and said he never rushed to a RTA because he knew that if was involved in a collision at a junction then his bosses would "drop him in it" and also ambulances were much better equipped to deal with casualties and firemen liked to control traffic!
Off an a slight tangent. .But it does involve police cars.
Quite a few years ago (30+ish) I used to have a Triumph 2500 PI Some days, the fuel gauge used to go faster than the car!
One day, I was chatting to a police officer who drove that particular sort of a car for a living. Anyway, I said too him: "I am not confessing to anything and anything said between us is off the record. Much as I love my 2500 PI I have found that, on the motorway, when the speed enters the 3-digit zone, the front end does feel a bit light!"
His response? "It's OK, when you get to about 107, you'll find the nose comes back down."
I was the dock officer for a trial of a copper who was charged with death by dangerous driving. He was on his way to a shout with blues and siren on when he collided with another car and the driver was killed. I found the case interesting as all the witnesses apart from one said his driving wasnt dangerous, the one who said it was wasnt a driver. They all said that he stopped momentarily for the red light at the junction before proceeding. The judge gave a formal not guilty verdict.
I was actually surprised by what the guidelines actually are for red lights when on emergency calls, believe it or not its this; treat them as stop or give way. As the judge said thats a bit confusing a stop or give way are totally different things.
Personally I surprised they have thought about what the USAF did for the ground alert B52s. On USAF bases with ground alert they had an orange rotating light on top of the traffic lights, that way drivers knew when ground alert had been called to cockpit and so they gave way.
canberra wrote: I was actually surprised by what the guidelines actually are for red lights when on emergency calls, believe it or not its this; treat them as stop or give way. As the judge said thats a bit confusing a stop or give way are totally different things.
The emergency vehicle guidelines do not surprise me, does not seem ambiguous just saying to check and be prepared to stop. The police also have an advantage over other emergency vehicles, they can get other vehicles to move over to let them through a red light
My driving instructor (ex-Hendon) always told me to treat green traffic lights a bit like a Give Way / Stop. Not to go straight across at full speed but to slow down, check both ways and be ready to stop even though you have right of way.
The highway code says something like this about green lights " only proceed if it is safe to do so". And not trying to be holier than thou or a right goody two shoes I have actually stopped at a green light to give way to an ambulance, and I almost got hit by the car behind!!