Are Flashing Bike Lights Safer?

April 03, 2022 5 min read

Bike lights are essential accessories for cyclists. They allow us to see them on the road better, especially at night. But some bike light manufacturers claim their flashing lights are safer than regular ones. Is this true?

Flashing bike lights are becoming increasingly popular because they reduce glare from headlights and improve visibility. Some even claim they are safer than ordinary lights.

However, some studies show that flashing lights can increase the risk of accidents. 

This article will be discussing the use of flashing lights, and whether they are safer or not. 

How Do Flashing Bike Lights Work?

Flashing lights work by emitting short bursts of high-intensity light every few seconds. The flashes last only a fraction of a second, so they do not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.

They are most effective when used in conjunction with a red front light. When combined, the two lights create a strobe effect that makes it easier for drivers to identify you.

When to Use Flashing Bike Lights

Flashing lights and steady lights go together. There are some times when you should flash your bike lights, but there are also times when it is better to leave them off.

The best time to use a flashing light on your bike is when you are riding in areas with heavy traffic or poor lighting conditions. This includes dark roads, unlit intersections, and poorly lit parking lots.

If you ride during daylight hours, you don't need to worry about using flashing lights, or steady lights, but this will depend on the weather conditions. 

If you have a rear-facing reflector, you can use it as an additional safety feature by flashing your lights while driving behind another vehicle. Drivers will be able to see you more clearly and react faster.


What Are the Risks Associated With Using Flashing Bike Lights?

There are some risks associated with using flashing lights on your bicycle. These include:

Increased Risk of Accidents 

A study conducted by the University of California found that flashing lights increased the risk of accidents by up to 50 percent.

Distracted Driving 

Many people think that flashing lights attract attention and encourage others to notice them. That's why many states now require all vehicles to display a steady red light.

Increased Risk of Crashes 

Studies suggest that flashing lights can distract motorists and lead to crashes.

Increased Risk of Distraction 

Because flashing lights can distract drivers, they might run into parked cars or pedestrians.

Increased Risk Of Injury  

Drivers who are distracted by flashing lights may fail to brake properly, resulting in collisions.

Increased Risk For Pedestrians 

People walking along sidewalks or trails have been injured by motorists blinded by flashing lights.

Increased Risk To Your Vehicle 

Flashing lights can cause glare that causes your headlights to burn out.

Flashing or steady lights?

Both forms of lights have pros and cons, and we will discuss them here.

Steady mode is constant light that doesn't flash, and it can sometimes give more time for people to see you. Research does show, however, that our eyes are sometimes better at detecting moving or changing things, so it may be possible to detect a cyclist from further away if they are using a flashing light. 

Additionally, people comment that the steady light looks more like a motorcycle driver, but the flashing light enables us to distinguish them as a cyclist.  

It is important to note, that when driving at night, flashing lights can distort your depth perception. It can be hard to judge how far away a cyclist is. However, one benefit of flashing lights is they help you stand out from the background. This is especially important when there are other vehicles around. 

Lights should be used during the day as well as at night, depending on the conditions. For example, on a misty day, lights should be used. A steady rear light is appreciated by others while you're riding in a group. 

In some countries, flashing lights are not allowed on bikes, and in addition, these can interfere with your ability to ride safely. The best way to keep safe is to wear bright clothing and reflectors, in addition to having the appropriate lights. 

How Do I Choose the Right Light for My Bike?

A good quality light will last longer than a cheap one. It is important to choose a light that has enough power to illuminate the road ahead. You should look for a light that has a high lumen output (the amount of light emitted). The higher the number, the brighter the light. A light with a low lumen rating may not provide enough illumination.

A light that is too dim can actually increase your risk of getting hit by another vehicle. This is because most accidents happen within 10 feet of the point where the vehicles meet.

The light must be mounted so that it points forward. Many lights mount behind the seat, however, this may block your view of traffic coming up behind you. Mounting the light above the handlebars makes it easier for other riders to see you.

Most Bike Lights Offer a Variety of Modes

Bike lights are important safety devices for cycling. White lights indicate your direction of travel, while red ones indicate your presence. You should use these lights carefully if you want to avoid accidents. Some lights have multiple modes. These include:

  • Steady - The light stays on constantly.
  • Flash - The light flashes rapidly.
  • Slow flash - The light flashes slowly.
  • Strobe - The light alternates between steady and flashing quickly.
  • SOS - The light flashes continuously until someone presses a button.

You should use the right type of light for each situation. For example, you might use a slow-flash light when riding through an area where there are lots of pedestrians or when approaching intersections.

Disadvantages Of Flashing Lights

While using the flashing mode on your bike lights can save battery, one big disadvantage is that if they are used at night, it can make it difficult for people to judge how far away you are, as mentioned above. 

This means that motorists and cars may not judge how far away you are correctly, and this could result in a collision.

Another problem with flashing lights is that they can distract drivers who are trying to concentrate on their driving.

Advantages of Steady Lights

Steady lights don't cause distractions. They allow motorists to focus on the road ahead without being distracted by the flashing light.

They also help to prevent collisions. When the motorist doesn't know whether or not you are present, they may assume that you are no longer there.

If you are riding at night, you should always ride with a steady light, but you can switch to a flashing light to a flashing light once you reach an intersection, or if there are many other vehicles around. 

Final Thoughts

To conclude, having lights on your bike is required by law, and different states will have different laws on the kinds of lights needed. In some places, flashing lights are illegal, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations surrounding this. 

If where you are situated allows flashing lights, then you can purchase lights that have different settings. There are pros and cons to both, but ensuring you are easily visible on roads is critical, no matter which type of light you choose to use.