What are the colours of headlamps legally permitted on motorcycles?

Photo by Jako Pienaar/ Sniper Photography

Question:

Hi, I have seen these lights on the road – they make bikes more visible but I’m not sure if they are road legal. Please could you tell me if they are and if not what does arrive alive recommend to make a motorcyclist more visible?

Answer:

The lens covers that are marketed for motorcycles are, in some instances, quite legal and in others, completely illegal.

Regulation 181 of the National Road Traffic Act governs the colour of lights (or lamps) that may be emitted and prohibits the projection of any colour other than white, amber or yellow towards the front, except in the case of identification lamps on trucks, which may be green.

Essentially, this means that a headlamp may be white, amber or yellow and you may have noticed that front fog driving lamps have a yellow hue to them.

When it comes to the visibility of motorcycles, we should be mindful and sensitive to this issue, due to the fact that the profile of these motor vehicles is ordinarily much smaller than other motor vehicles on the road.  The fitting of legal headlamp covers may go some way to helping, more especially since the practice of driving with headlamps on during the day is growing and being actively encouraged.  We all know that motorcycles MUST drive with their headlamps on, regardless of the time of day or night, and it has been argued by many that other motor vehicles doing so has diminished the visibility of motorcycles.

This assertion is partially true, although it can equally be argued that visibility of all motor vehicles is an important factor in road safety.  In my opinion, if motorcycles have a different colour headlamp to other motor vehicles, it may improve the chances of them being seen by other motorists.  I would therefore support any initiative to have motorcyclists fit headlamp covers that are amber or yellow, provided that such covers do not diminish the effectiveness of the headlamp at night.  The red, blue or green headlamp covers that are also available are illegal and should not be fitted under any circumstances.

But there is way more to being visible on a motorcycle than the mere colour of its headlamp and motorcyclists should become particularly mindful and sensitive to their own responsibilities to achieving this.  There are many things that a motorcyclist can do to increase their visible presence on the road, amongst these being:

  • Making sure that their headlamps are in good working order and are operated on dipped beam during the day;
  • Fitting auxiliary lamps to their motorcycles;
  • Wearing high visibility clothing over their protective clothing;
  • Maintaining correct road/lane positioning so as to increase their profile on the road.

Unfortunately, other motorists who don’t see motorcyclists are generally given a raw deal since it is usually the motorcyclist who has not taken the appropriate measures to make themselves visible on the road.  Such things as dark or dull clothing, incorrect road position, etc. has a huge influence on these matters and motorcyclists should be acutely aware of the fact that they are less visible than larger motor vehicles and make every effort to mitigate this risk by taking the appropriate measures – which, by the way does not include fitting loud exhaust pipes so as to make a noise and cause other motorists to panic when they ride past them.

181. Colour of lights

(1) Subject to the provisions of regulation 170 (1), 171 (1), 172, 175 or 176, no person shall

operate on a public road a motor vehicle which is fitted with or carries on it a lamp which—

(a) except in the case of a brake anti-lock warning light to the front of a trailer, emits a

light which is not white, amber or yellow in colour towards the front

(b) emits a light which is not yellow or amber in colour towards either side of the motor

vehicle; or

(c) except in the case of a direction indicator or reversing lamp complying with the

provisions of these regulations, emits a light which is not red in colour towards the

rear.

(2) When two or more lamps of the same class emitting light in the same direction are fitted to

a vehicle they shall emit light of the same colour.

Provided that no person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle fitted with any colour of

lights other than the colour of lights prescribed in terms of these regulations.

Best Regards,

Howard Dembovsky

National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)

Association Not For Gain  |  Incorporated as a non-profit company under the Companies Act, 2008

Also view”

Motorbike Safety through the Eyes of the Instructor

Motorcycle Safety and the Elderly Rider

Motorcycle Safety and ATGATT

2 thoughts on “What are the colours of headlamps legally permitted on motorcycles?

  • July 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm
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    It is true that Red, Blue or Green headlight covers are illegal as these colours represent emergency services and traffic authority vehicle warning system lights. White, yellow are best as these colours do not influence the effect of the headlight in any way.

    What I don’t agree with is the use of a dipped beam during daylight on a motorcycle. A motorcyclist, and I preach this everyday and will continue to do so for as long as I live, need to do whatever he or she can to make themselves visible in traffic and this includes the use of a high beam during day time. The high beam on a motorcycle can in no way blind another road user unless the road user prefers to stare in to the light for a prolonged time. The law, old as it is and written by non-motorcyclists, needs to change on a few issues, and this is one of them.

  • April 3, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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    I’ve got another question,I got pulled over by metro police in my green Honda Ballade. This was not a road block more like the metro police blocking a section of the great riya viya road, the office did not greet nor ask for my license he told me that my headlights are suppose to be white as I have a yellow protective film on them,then said I must remove it or he will take the disk as this makes the car in roadworthy, he also said if he takes the disk I will cry in those words.My lights shine normally and my car is more vissible as my car was hit by a taxu once already.Finally to add the cop stop me instead of stopping the VW Jetta that skip the robot I front of me what to do

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