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You may have noticed that some of the lights flash on a motorcycle when you’re by one or passing one. This can be seen on either the brake light or the headlight.
Many wonder if the motorcyclist is doing that on purpose or if there’s some sort of electrical problem going on with the bike. Either way, it’s a curious phenomenon and deserves an explanation for motorcyclists and non-riders alike.
Why do motorcycle lights flashes? The light modulator is what makes motorcycle lights flash. This light modulator flashes either the taillight or the headlight to make them visible to other drivers. The flashing is not consistent, it could indicate an electrical problem.
As a motorcyclist myself, I didn’t know what the flashing lights were for until I did my own research about the matter. This article will explain everything you may be wondering about flashing lights on a motorcycle, it’s legality, and whether or not it’s an effective way to ride a motorcycle.
Flashing lights on a motorcycle
There’s always at least a little bit of risk getting in a vehicle and driving down the road. But most of us do it every day and don’t really think about those risks we take. For motorcyclists, it’s a bigger risk because they’re much less protected on their bike. It’s no wonder they try to take extra measures to ensure their safety.
It is quite a sight to see flashing lights on a motorcycle. It can be quite startling for some because they associate it to an emergency. The main reason that motorcycle lights flash is to alert drivers around them and warn them not to drive too close.
Installing a light modulator is the best way for motorcyclists. The light modulator is a device that is installed directly into the brake and headlight electrical wiring. The modulator causes the headlight to flash in a rhythmic fashion, making it more obvious that a motorcycle is approaching. You can turn the modulator on or off at any time during the day.
An optional modulator can be added to the brake light’s electrical wiring. They don’t make the brake lights do a continuous flash, rather They flash the brake lights five times when the motorcyclist braking.
Because motorcycle brake lights can be smaller than car brakes lights, it is sometimes difficult for cars behind motorcycles to see the motorcycle brakes being applied. The flashing will alert the driver behind that the rider has slowed down.
There are motorcycles that flash their lights for reasons other than having a module installed. If you notice a motorcycle’s lights flashing in a non rhythmic pattern, the motorcyclist might be trying to get your attention for whatever reason.
It’s also possible that the motorcycle has some sort of electrical issue that may cause any of the lights to flicker. Perhaps there is a wire that isn’t fully connected or poor splicing was performed which would manifest itself any time a motorcyclist went over any sort of bump.
Is it legal?
The next biggest question most people have about motorcycle flashing lights is whether or not it’s legal. It can sometimes be distracting for other drivers, so many people assume it isn’t.
In actuality, as long as the motorcyclist is correctly using the light modulator on their motorcycle, it’s completely legal in all 50 states in the U.S. In fact, it’s a federal law in which state laws cannot supersede. The United States recognizes the vulnerability of motorcyclists and encourages bikers to find subtle, but effective ways to make them more visible on the road.
People have a lot of excuses for causing an accident when they run into a bike and get in trouble. “I didn’t see them.” Because motorcycles are so small, they’re less visible to other drivers so it only makes sense to have flashing lights to help those around them be more aware.
Motorcyclists who want to install a moderator on their motorcycle must still follow the laws. First and foremost, they need to install a modulator that is government certified and can’t simply make their own modification.
Your motorcycle’s headlights should be facing the traffic and not directly at it. Having the wrong position of the headlight could lead to a ticket or fine since that’s extremely distracting for those who pass them.
Flashing lights during the night are also prohibited. The government approved modulators for motorcycle headlights already include a sensor that will stop flashing when it gets dark. Again, flashing lights during the night can be incredibly distracting for other drivers since modulators alternatively use the high beam and low beam in it’s flashes.
Flashing lights increase effectiveness
Motorcycles themselves aren’t dangerous machines. It’s the lack of protection they provide that makes them more dangerous compared to other vehicles. There are a lot of contributing factors to motorcycle accidents and a lot of those reasons aren’t the motorcyclist’s fault.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that 93% of respondents are satisfied with their health. “the failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents.” Motorcyclists don’t want to become a victim of being unseen, so some do all they can to make themselves noticeable on the road.
The study also goes on to say that the most common scenario for motorcycle accidents happens in intersections when cars are turning and don’t see a motorcyclist in oncoming traffic. It was also found that the use of a visible headlamp can be very effective in preventing accidents.
The study concluded that an increase in contrast in conspicuity could be used as a countermeasure to motorcycle accidents. Perhaps the accident could have been avoided if some of these cars had flashing headlights.
Having flashing lights, whether it be the headlights or the brake lights, can also help a motorcyclist feel more confident while they’re out riding. A confident motorcyclist could be more cautious, which can lead to fewer accidents.
Motorcyclists who use light modulators on their motorcycles report feeling safer. Despite some of the comments they may get from other drivers who are annoyed with their flashing lights, motorcyclists say they’d rather have someone be annoyed with their lights than not notice them at all.
A Few of the Setbacks
Though having flashing lights on a motorcycle can have a positive impact on the rider’s safety, there are a few setbacks that both motorcyclists and drivers alike have complained about.
The first setback is when motorcyclists use their modulator at night and continue to have flashing lights when it’s dark. While this isn’t much of a problem with the taillight/brake light, the headlight flashing at night becomes problematic. High beams can sometimes be distracting to other drivers because it switches between high and low beam. This is why modulators shouldn’t be used during the night.
Flashing lights from a motorbike can cause drivers to assume that the motorcycle is trying to communicate with them. They pull over. Drivers may mistakenly believe that the motorcycle is an emergency vehicle or raise a panic alarm.
The flashing lights are irritating for most drivers. Many drivers don’t realize that flashing lights are legal if they are used in compliance. They will often try to contact authorities to report the motorcyclist. Even some authorities don’t know about the rule.
However, the flashing lights of motorcyclists are legal so long as they follow the instructions on how to use the modulator. It’s better to have drivers be annoyed by a motorcyclist’s lights than to not see them at all and risk the safety of the rider.