Nova Scotia

Halifax motorcyclist seeks clarity from police over his purple lights

A safety-conscious motorcyclist in Halifax is looking for clarity after he was warned by an RCMP officer that he could be ticketed for using glow lights that aren't explicitly banned under provincial law.

Confusion may stem from officers interpreting obscure section of MVA, RCMP spokesperson says

Nova Scotia RCMP have not said one way or the other if a purple light was legal. A spokesperson said there may be confusion around enforcement because officers don't have to deal with the issue often. (Ian Munroe/CBC)

A safety-conscious motorcyclist in Halifax is looking for clarity after he was warned he could be ticketed for using glow lights on his motorbike that aren't explicitly banned under provincial law.

Joe Hamilton said the lights add an extra element of safety for riders and help prevent accidents.

On Thursday evening, a 17-year-old boy driving a motorcycle was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries after a collision with a van at around 10 p.m. on Highway 2 in Fall River. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

'I'm just warning you'

Hamilton said he was parked at a Tim Hortons in Fall River, N.S., last Friday evening when an RCMP officer pulled into the lot. He said he was informed the lights installed on his bike, which illuminate the motor and the ground below, might violate provincial law.

"He told me, 'I'm just warning you so that the next officer doesn't give you a ticket,'" said Hamilton, who uses purple lights he assumed would be allowed under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Section 179 of the act states that red lights can't be visible from the front unless they're on an emergency vehicle, a school bus, a public-safety vehicle, or one that's being used by a conservation officer.

It also forbids anyone from driving on a highway with a blue light that's visible from any direction, unless it's a police vehicle or one being used by a bridge patrol officer, sheriff, or conservation officer.

'Confusion' over interpreting MVA

"We know about the blue law and the red laws because of emergency vehicles," Hamilton said. "But there's guys that run purple, green, all the other colours but the emergency colours and they're getting mixed answers."

Motorists who violate the rules can be fined $180 for a first offence and $237.50 for subsequent offences, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dal Hutchinson.

However, Hutchinson didn't say one way or the other if a purple light was legal. He acknowledged confusion around enforcement could be due to the fact that officers don't have to deal with the issue often.

"Police are required to enforce multiple acts in Nova Scotia. For example, the Motor Vehicle Act contains multiple sections, some of which are rarely encountered by a police officer," Hutchinson said in an email.

"With that may come confusion with the interpretation of a specific section of an act that is rarely used."

Motorcyclist Joe Hamilton says glow lights are becoming more popular in Nova Scotia. (Newfound Riders)

But Hamilton said that glow lights are becoming more common among Nova Scotia's motorcyclists, partly due to safety concerns.

"We're more noticed when we have lights on our bike — that's one of the main reasons," he said. "There have been a number of bike accidents this year. It's been becoming more popular because of that, I think."

No plans to clarify law

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said in an email that there are restrictions "around blue, red and flashing lights, or lights that create a glare or distract other drivers."

"As such, we recommend that vehicle owners be very cautious before adding lighting in addition to that provided by the vehicle manufacturer," Brian Taylor said.

Changing the law to explicitly allow glow lights isn't unheard of. Texas enacted legislation in 2015 to permit motorcyclists to fit their bikes with non-flashing white or amber LEDs that illuminate the underbody or the ground below.

Taylor said there are no plans as of yet to modify Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act.

"While no changes specific to these lights are currently planned for the act, as new technologies appear on the streets, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to look at ways to keep our legislation current," he said.


Ian Munroe is a Halifax-based journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. He has previously worked for newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies in Toronto, Ottawa, Tokyo and Dubai. Contact him at