Using Motorcycle Turn Signals as Brake Lights
This question comes up frequently: “Should I install one of those kits that converts turn signals to turn on with the brake lights?”
In the absence of scientific evidence or studies on how vehicles react to different types of brake lights, here’s my opinion.
The topic of using turn signal lights as brake lights comes up pretty frequently on many of the motorcycle forums.
The consensus is that it’s illegal in most states, but as you’ve found, the laws are pretty obscure in this area, so it pretty much depends on how the local law enforcement officer feels about it.
The other issue is this: will cars that are following the motorcycle recognize that a turn signal that flashes with the brake light is the same thing as a brake light?
There is some question as to whether or not using turn signals as brake lights could affect the attention of a vehicle behind the bike.
It may take focus off the actual brake light itself — even for a moment — and the driver may become momentarily confused, which could increase their stopping distance.
Who knows for sure? It’s all pretty theoretical, and I sure wish someone would conduct a scientific study on how other drivers respond to lighting.
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My personal feeling is that it’s better to concentrate as much stop light power as possible, located close together at the rear of the motorcycle.
When I follow a motorcycle, I notice that bikes invariably have very poor tail light and/or brake light visibility.
And during the daytime, the brightness of many motorcycle brake/tail lights becomes washed out in the sunshine.
Many bikes use an 1157 bulb, which burns as a taillight and then burns brighter as a brake light.
I think this is a bad idea. There should always be a separate red light that comes on as a brake light; my feeling is that bikes (and cars!) should always have “one bulb, one use”.
That is, it’s better to have a dedicated light that goes from off to on, rather than use a light that’s on as a turn signal or running light and then on a little brighter to indicate that the bike is coming to a stop.
I always add an auxiliary LED brake light bar or system, placed as close to the stock brake light as possible.
There are many different types of LED’s or standard red lights that can be easily wired in to the brake light circuit.
The idea is to get a really, really bright red light that comes on in a single location when you’re stopping.
This hopefully will result in no confusion about what you’re doing, as it draws the following driver’s attention to the area on the rear of your bike that means “stop”.
Anyway, that’s my opinion on the issue.
Publication Date: 2001 (?)
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