Ask a trooper: Headlight modulators are intended to improve motorcycle visibilityE-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you choose. Read past columns at duluthnewstribune.com.
Q: This isn’t exactly a question but more of a need to get information out to the public concerning motorcycles. I ride a motorcycle and have recently added a headlight modulator for more visibility. I recently was riding my motorcycle with another motorcyclist with a headlight modulator. On two occasions, a motorist in the oncoming lane of traffic pulled over to the shoulder of the road, I guess thinking we were emergency vehicles. Would you mind informing the public on what a motorcycle headlight modulator is, how and why it’s used and what type of lights indicate an emergency vehicle.
I have heard that a motorcyclist was killed using a modulator. A person, thinking the cycle was an emergency vehicle, stopped on a non-shouldered road, to yield to the “emergency cycle,” and the vehicle following passed and collided head-on with the cycle.
I want to be safe riding my cycle, not a statistic from the uninformed public. Start Seeing Motorcycles — just know what you’re seeing!
A: I will answer your question —would you mind informing the public on what a motorcycle headlight modulator is, how and why it’s used and what type of lights indicate an emergency vehicle.
However, I think your other comments are sending a mixed message by promoting safe motorcycling (including the use of headlight modulators) and then talking about a motorcyclist who you heard was killed by using one.
Motorcycle headlight modulators are devices that make the headlight brightness go up and down, almost like a flashing light — but actual flashing lights are not legal on motorcycles. Modulating headlights are used to draw attention to the motorcycle, which is the same reason why headlights are required to be on at all times on a motorcycle in Minnesota.
Modulators are legal, and anyone interested can easily look up the details online. Use your favorite search engine and look up: Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR Section 571.108) Paragraph S7.9.4 - “Motorcycle Headlamp Modulation System.”
I do see some motorcycles with modulators that are not conforming to that statute because they have headlights that are actually flashing, not just modulating the headlight.
As for lighting on emergency vehicles, to me they are completely different than the modulators on motorcycles. Emergency vehicles generally have red or red and blue flashing lights to the front and/or rear, with yellow amber flashers to the rear in most cases.
The lighting depends on exactly what type of emergency vehicle you are talking about. Some emergency vehicles have flashing headlights used with the other lights, and I suppose that is what the similarity might be that you are referring to in your crash scenario.
Thanks for asking.
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.