Motorcycle Auxiliary Light Bill Update

HB 1700 was heard in sub-committee this morning.  The bill, as of this morning, did two things.  It allowed motorcyclists to add LED type auxiliary lights to their motorcycles in order to increase visibility.  It also eliminated the five second limitation on the amount of time that a motorcycle brake light may modulate.

For several weeks we (VCOM) have been battling opposition from the Virginia State Police.  Their main concern is the fact that the lights in question are not SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) approved.  Current Virginia Code requires that any lights added to a motor vehicle be approved by the Superintendent of State Police or meet or exceed the standards and specifications of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American National Standards Institute, or the federal Department of Transportation.

There was much discussion and debate between sub-committee members, State Police, and VCOM concerning this topic.  In the end, while it became clear that the sub-committee was not prepared to pass the bill along in its current form, there was agreement among all that; 1) none of the above entities actually approve lighting, and; 2) perhaps lighting technology has created a situation where strict adherence to the standards no longer makes sense in all situations.  With VCOM’s tepid assent, the bill was amended to strike the language concerning auxiliary lighting.  The sub-committee instructed VCOM and the State Police to meet this year to work out language to bring to them next session.  Both parties have agreed to do that.

Before the emails start flooding in about agreeing to the amendment, please allow me to explain our reasoning.  The bill was not going to pass.  If it failed to pass then the language removing the time limitation on modulating brake lights would have failed as well.  By agreeing to the amendment we were able to save that portion of the bill which we consider to be an important safety measure as well.  It should also be noted that this morning’s meeting represented two “firsts”.  This is the first time that the Virginia State Police have indicated a willingness to consider language allowing auxiliary lighting.  It is also the first time that we have had legislators agree that it may be appropriate to move beyond the standards.  That’s progress.  Unfortunately, progress comes slow in the Old Dominion.

With that being said, HB 1700 is now simply a brake light bill (which, for the record, passed unanimously out of sub-committee).  Current code states that a motorcycle brake light may modulate for up to five seconds when the brake is applied.  After that it must burn steady.  Unfortunately, a motorcycle with a smaller brake light can blend into the brake lights of larger motor vehicles in front of it, thus camouflaging the motorcycle from vehicles approaching from the rear.  Allowing the brake light to continue to modulate while the brake is engaged makes the motorcycle more conspicuous and more likely to be seen by drivers approaching from the rear.

HB 1700 now goes to full committee on a unanimous recommendation from the sub-committee.  VCOM’s strategy at this point is to step aside and allow momentum to carry the bill through full committee and on to the full House of Delegates.  Sometimes it is best not to draw attention to a bill that has picked up a head of steam and does not seem to have opposition.  In the spirit of full disclosure, that strategy does not guarantee success, but it has proven to be the smart play in the past.

We will continue to keep you informed about these bills of interest to all Virginia motorcyclists.  Again let me thank each of you who have taken your time stay informed on these issues, and who have remained willing protect the interests of all riders.