Modulating Motorcycle Headlights

MotorcycleConspicuity is an important word in any motorcycle rider's vocabulary. Being seen by other road users is a must to avoid being involved in a collision. One method of increasing a motorcycle's conspicuity is through the use of modulating headlights.

BC Rules for Modulating Headlights

In British Columbia either the low beam or the high beam headlight may be modulated, but not both. Since the modulator may only be in operation during daylight hours and high beams must be dimmed when approaching or overtaking other traffic in daytime as well as nighttime, choosing to modulate the low beam headlamps may be the better choice.

Standards for the Headlight Modulator

example of a modulator module for motorcycle headlights

Headlamp modulators must comply with section 5.6 of the Technical Standards Document No. 108, Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Canada). This permits a modulation frequency of 240 +/- 40 cycles per minute, requires full filament brightness for at least 50 to 70% of the cycle and a minimum brightness of at least 17% of the maximum brightness at any test point during the cycle.

The modulator must include a sensor perpendicular to the highway that shuts off the system during darkness.

Finally, the headlights must function normally if the modulator fails.

Always Ride With Headlights On

Operating with headlights on at all times is a good idea if you don't have a headlight modulator. In fact, if your motorcycle is manufactured any time after 1974, the headlamps must illuminate when the engine is running.

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I've seen one or two of these on the road, along with the equally annoying flashing brake lights, and I couldn't even believe they were legal until I read your astonishing advice that motorcyclists should use them.

Devices such as this may attract attention, but they do so only by distracting attention from something else. For instance, in the same issue of the paper there is a story about a bicyclist being critically injured by a motorist who did not see him (in daylight). I wonder if the driver's eyes had been diverted to something else that was demanding his attention.

We are bombarded by sensory stimulation, and our society's reaction seems to be that in order to be noticed amidst it all, we have to contribute to it by becoming ever brighter and flashier.

Motorcycles driving with headlamps on (often high beams in the daytime) are quite visible already. If they flash lights in my eyes, they only draw attention to themselves and take my attention away whatever else may be on the road. Stop the madness.

Actually the BC regs do allow them as long as they do not flash more than 3 or 4 times and then stay on solid after that.  However, as a former ICBC examiner new riders are taught to manually flash their tailights 3 or 4 times before starting to fully apply the brakes.  It is a great idea to also check behind you as you do this to ensure that the vehicle behind is responding.  We as riders have to take extra measures to ensure our safety.

I've gone to the regs and the inspection manual and I cannot find anything that permits a flashing brake lamp on any vehicle. Please show me where this is authorized.

To the person who said "Stop the madness" at the end of their comment. The truth be known many drivers are simply too busy reading text messages, fiddling with the radio, reading a map etc to notice anything on the road. Motorcycles are involved in accidents because drivers did not see them!!!Period....headlights or no headlights. The bicycle rider that was hit was due to inattention....not distraction by a modulator as you suggested.

Car drivers are involved in collisions because of innumerable distractions they themselves create the majority of the time. I was a driver examiner for many years and can honestly tell you that too many drivers are incompetant through their own complacency and stupidity.

Headlight modulators work...they do not create a distraction they create awareness....why else do all emergency vehicles use them?? Of course your argument says that they too cause drivers to divert their attention from the road and may cause accidents....maybe you should lobby against their use all together and see how far your idea gets....laughable!

I have a suggestion to motorcyclists that want to be seen. How about instead of being "cool" in your black leathers and black helmuts you opt for at least brighter colored helmuts and add a hi vis vest over your leathers. So it does't look as "cool" but at least the other drivers can see you!