FAQ Friday: Can I use Strobe Lights to be more visible at night?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Can I use Strobe Lights to be more visible at night?

For any other lights beyond those specifically defined within the Navigation Rules, they should be such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules, or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out (Rule 20).

Displaying a strobe for “higher visibility” would confuse other vessels as to your navigational status (many aids to navigation use a strobe or flashing). Also, lights provide direction and aspect information to other boat operators. For example, if while operating my vessel I see a red light on my starboard side I know I am the give-way vessel (Rule 16, 17). The use of a strobe light could overwhelm a vessel’s navigation lights and cease to provide such crucial direction and aspect information to other boat operators.

Also, Rule 36 of the International Rules addresses signals to attract attention and for the purpose of [that] rule the use of high intensity intermittent or revolving lights, such as strobe lights, shall be avoided. Rule 37 of the Inland Rules addresses strobes in regards to distress signals so that when a vessel is in distress and requires assistance she shall use…a high intensity white light flashing at regular intervals from 50 to 70 times per minute.

Since strobe light use is to be avoided (International waters) or used as a distress signal (Inland waters), it cannot be used to routinely mark vessels operating on the water.


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