Motorcycle lighting laws can vary depending on which state the rider resides in. All states require lights to be operational during nighttime hours until sunrise, and all states have certain laws regarding how visible the headlamps and taillights of a motorcycle need to be. Lighting laws benefit both the riders and other vehicles on the road by allowing the motorcycle to be seen at all times.
Different states have different laws in regards to motorcycle lighting, especially in regards to daytime running lights, or operating a motorcycle with the lights on during daytime hours. In California, for example, anyone who rides a motorcycle during the day that was manufactured after 1977 must use daytime running lights. In Texas, daytime running lights are also required for motorcycles that were built after 1975. Under the guidelines of the motorcycle laws in Georgia, daytime running lights must be used by all motorcycle riders, regardless of what year the motorcycle was manufactured. All states require motorcycle riders to use headlights between sunset and sunrise, whether or not they are driving off-road.
Motorcycle riders do not have the right to use any type of colored light they wish in regards to their front headlamp and taillight. Each state has its own rules and regulations in regards to what types of colored lights can be equipped on a motorcycle. For example, under the guidelines of the Texas Transportation Code Section 547.303, the taillight of a motorcycle must be red, or have the ability to reflect red. The turn signal lights on a motorcycle in Texas have to be red, amber or yellow. Motorcycle riders are also prohibited from installing either a red, blue or white light that flashes. The purpose of this law is to prohibit motorcycle riders from appearing as law officials.
Read More: Motorcycle Sidecar Laws
In order for motorcycle lights to be legal, they have to be able to be seen from a certain distance away. These distances vary from state to state. For example, under the guidelines of the North Carolina Statutes Section 20-131, all motorcycle headlamps must be visible from 200 feet away when facing the motorcycle head on. The rear lamps, or taillights, on a motorcycle must be visible from 500 feet away. The stop lamp, or brake light, must be visible from at least 100 feet away. Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to sell or own a motorcycle that does not have a brake light visible from 100 feet away, unless the motorcycle was manufactured before Dec 31, 1955. Lastly, all lights used to illuminate the license plate of a motorcycle must be white in color.
Based in California, Noel Shankel has been writing and directing since 2002. His work has been published in "Law of Inertia Magazine." Shankel has a Bachelor of Arts in film and writing from San Francisco State University.