Coloured Lights Tell Us Something About Vehicles

Colored LightsThe lights that our vehicles are equipped with serve two important functions. They allow us to see and they allow us to be seen by other road users. The messages conveyed to others by our vehicle's lights must be clear with no opportunity for confusion. This convention is followed worldwide.

White, Yellow and Red Lights

For most of us, three colours of lights are allowed to be used on our vehicles. Generally, you will see white and yellow to the front and red to the rear. With the exception of signal and backup lights this is a standard configuration.

Which End Are We Looking At?

The standard allows us to decide which end of a vehicle we are looking at. If we see white and yellow, we should be looking at the front of a vehicle. If red, it should be the rear. If we are looking at the side, the side marker lights allow us to decide if the vehicle is facing to our left or right.

Width, Height and Length

Properly installed clearance and identification lights tell us about a vehicle's dimensional information.

Canadian Standards

Vehicle lighting standards are set by Transport Canada in the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. These tell vehicle manufacturers how vehicles that are sold in Canada are to be built. Technical Standard 108 deals with lights, reflectors and associated equipment. 

Rather than reading through them to try and determine what you need, Transport Canada has created a visual guide to the requirements:

Cars are similar to trucks but do not require clearance and identification lamps.

Provincial Enforcement

Enforcement of the national standards are the responsibility of the provincial governments. In BC this is accomplished through Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations and the Vehicle Inspection Manual used by Designated Inspection Facilities. The manual must be purchased from Crown Publications and may be available to read at your local library.

Lights for Decoration

Lights used as a decoration have no place on our highways. Colours other than white, red and yellow are generally forbidden for most vehicles. All lights must serve the purposes set out in Division 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. These regulations specify colour, placement and lamp type. Anything else may confuse other drivers and confusion could result in a collision.

Off Road Lights

"off-road lamp" means a lamp designed for any use other than those specified in Division 4 of these regulations;

If you choose to install them, they must be covered by an opaque cover at all times when the vehicle is on the road. This applies if the vehicle is being driven or is parked.

In the Interior where I live many people venture off-road with their trucks and SUV’s.  Some have auxiliary lighting installed to help their vision, especially in 2/3 of the year when sunshine is limited.  Mountainous terrain and forests are vision limiting, for sure.

HOWEVER, when they go on road they still have these extremely bright lights turned on to assist their vision.  Either they aren’t aware or don’t care that this can be blinding to oncoming traffic.  On tight twisty roads where the shoulder lines have faded or disappeared from plowing this is dangerous.  We have numerous off-road crashes and head-on crashes as a result.

This “Me-first” mentality is dangerous and I would appeal to drivers’ sense of community responsibility to change their behaviour, but I don’t think many of them will read this newsletter.  Police enforcement would help, but traffic enforcement is so limited as police resources are devoted to other activities that have higher priority than saving lives on the road.  So depressing.

In addition, the way lights appear to get further apart can tell us how quickly the other vehicle is approaching (or how quickly we are approaching it)

OF course, because motorcycles only have a single headlight (even some that are equipped with twin headlights, which have single hi and low beams) or because they are close together even if they have two low/hi beams, motorcycles in the dark can appear further away than they actually are.

That's all fine and dandy, but the regulations seemingly are not cared for vis a vis enforcement.

The locals here in the Kootenays differ very little from other areas, in that massive light bars adorn cab tops, just under mirror, and on top of mirror installations; also they are often under the bumper. Slimline and sometimes unnoticeable, until they are turned on; then they are quite literally blinding and exhibit all the blue light scatter of intense LEDs.

Upon a few night drives, it is evident the LEDs were so bright, that they canceled out our headlights. The LED operator was too late on the Dipper switch resulting in the oncoming vehicle  blinded, and sometimes scarily - nearly another road statistic. Once they are past, the night vision takes a while to come back.

Where is the enforcement?

Another weird thing with lighting are the 'city trucks' with massive body and suspension lifts; huge menacing bumpers, way above the windshields of common vehicles and monstrously wide stances and tyres. Underneath are mounted purple, green, pink, red etc. lighting. Purpose?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Until those responsible start enforcing all sections of the MVA nothing is going to change.

I don't know if it is from brain washing or just laziness as there is very few sections that are enforced. Check the yearly stats, pathetic.

We don't need more enforcement just enforcement of all the laws.