Pretty Flashing Brake Lights!

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My pal Dom alerted me to a new annoyance – inevitably touted (and likely, soon to be mandated) as a “safety” measure: Third brake lights that flash or blink  instead of merely illuminating, along with the main brake lights. He posted a video of this phenomenon over at Clover Cam, in case you’re interested in seeing this latest example of “safety” technology that arguably is going to make the roads a lot less safe.

How so?

Visual clutter. Too much input to process – so instead of being noticed, the input is ignored.

An example: Those of a certain vintage will remember the world before always-on headlights – Daytime Running Lamps, or DRLs – came into play. Back then, you could easily pick out a funeral procession or emergency vehicle – because they were the only vehicles that operated in the daytime with their lights on. They and motorcycles – which were as a result also easier to notice – which made things safer for them and everyone else.

Of course, in those dread dark days of yore, people were also expected to pay attention – which today is apparently too much to expect.

Thus, today, it is much harder – impossible, even – to identify which cars are lined up in a funeral procession even when one is paying attention,  because every car – well, almost every car – has its headlights on despite it being broad daylight.

Motorcycles are invisible – easily lost in the glare of all those always-on headlights.

Ironic, isn’t it?

DRLs were sold as a way to make cars more visible. In practice, having everyone running around with their lights on has only made individual cars (and all motorcycles) less visible, increased visual clutter and made the driving environment more chaotic.

Which is exactly what will happen when the no-goodniks in DC decide to mandate the blinking third eye. They haven’t yet – but rest assured, it’s coming. A political Clover loves nothing more than “safety” – whether actually safe or not.  We got saddled with third-eye brake lights (CHMSLs) this way, too. Bet on blinking CHMSLs in the near future.

Then, imagine being in a pack of cars, in heavy traffic – with literally dozens of blinking, flashing brake lights assaulting your optic nerve and overwhelming your brains’ ability to process.

There is a reason why cop cars and emergency vehicles use flashing lights: They are disorienting to the driver being pulled over. Which is, you know, the opposite of what you’d like when it comes to encouraging a driver trying to maintain his focus on the task at hand.

The flaw – the fly in the pie – is the same as with DRLs. If you have a single car coming down an empty road, it will indeed be more visible – and sooner – if it is running with its lights on. The problem is that America is no longer a land of single cars toodling down empty (or even mostly empty) roads. One car with its lights on is easy to pick out.  One car with its headlights on in a sea of cars with their headlights on is invisible. Worse than that, actually. Because DRLs create glare – a problem that was nonexistent before DRLs were force-fed to the American driver.  (General Motors is the guilty party here. Because DRLs are required by law in Canada – and because GM sells a lot of cars in Canada – GM figured it would be cheaper to build all its cars with DRLs … rather than build cars with DRLs for Canada and cars without them for the US. That’s how – and why – we got saddled with DRLs – which GM touted as a “safety” feature. Other automakers followed suit.)

Well, the same problem applies to these flashing, blinking brake lights.

Will a single car with this feature stick out more – be more immediately noticeable? Certainly. But that temporary advantage will disappear when all – or most – cars out there have flashing, blinking third brake lights. The human brain learns to cancel out such visual white noise. Ask anyone who lives in say Times Square, NY. Flashing lights just become another part of the background mosaic. When flashing lights are everywhere, you stop paying attention to them. You have to – otherwise you’d be overwhelmed by the excessive input.

So, there’s that.

There’s also the issue of the distraction they’ll create. Look at the pretty flashing lights!…. forget all all about braking.

Crunch.

Or, it’ll be more benign – if adding to the addlement (a neologism!) of the American Driver is to be looked upon as benign. Stare at the pretty flashing red lights… oops, didn’t notice the red light up ahead just turned green.

Electronic stupefication proceeds apace.

It’s not enough, apparently, to have people with sail fawns glued to their ears at all times, hooked up to their Bluetooth IVs, dependent on “smart” cruise control to notice they’re about to rear-end the car up ahead and slow the car for them, automatically… insufficient, to expect them to keep their vehicle from wandering over the double yellow (or off the road entirely) and so, we must have Lane Departure buzzers and lights. Too much, you see, to expect them to crane their necks and visually confirm with their eyes that no tot lies asleep underneath the back tires before engaging reverse – and so, mandatory back-up cameras… .

Impossible, to check and maintain the prescribed psi in their tires; electric monitors for everyone!

And so on. And soon, probably – pretty flashing “third eye” brake lights, too.

Why not strobe lights on the roof, for that matter?  Saaaaaaafety!

Salut!

 Throw it in the Woods? 

 

 

 

 

 

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  68 comments for “Pretty Flashing Brake Lights!

  1. Brian
    October 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Hello Eric,
    As an OTR truck driver, I am unable to comment on your articles very often, but I must say that I enjoy reading them off-line. As a former truck mechanic and farmer; I really understand where you are coming from for the most part. (I am an Anarcho-Capitalist)
    “BUT” I understand that the clover plant fixes nitrogen in the soil and attracts honey bee’s to it’s flowers. I now know that your derogatory use of the word clover is due to a local troll. I ask you to please please please stop soiling the word clover. How about using the word “Leprechaun” instead? If you have to use the word clover, then why not add another word: poison, as in clover poison? Or how about a “one leaf clover”?

  2. nadine mainor
    October 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    thank you for adding two more words to my vocabulary….I love it when I have to resort to a dictionary……and find the words…..

  3. David
    October 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    For reasons I have yet to determine, some drivers here in Houston turn on their emergency flashers when it is RAINING! Words cannot describe how horribly distracting that is. Why do these morons think they need to tell the world “Hey everybody, it’s raining!!” I shudder to think what will happen if someone pulls over to the side of the road with a REAL emergency and turns on their flashers.

    • October 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Gawd!

      We have them here in VA, too!

    • dom
      October 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      I have some video footage posted over at Clover Cam or this exact thing. I don’t know why the hell they do it.

      Here you go.

      The Hazard Lights Party!

  4. Jack
    October 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    “Why not strobe lights on the roof, for that matter? Saaaaaaafety!”

    Ah, legislation has already been proposed in at least one jurisdiction for school buses and has been suggested in many others. White strobe lights on school bus roofs are not uncommon in the Toronto area. It’s only a matter of time till they’re mandated. We have a premier (equivalent to a US governor) who is proud to be dubbed Premier Dad.

    http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2012/04/norcross_put_strobe_lights_on.html

  5. tbiggs
    October 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Don’t forget the old mantra, “You go where you look”. If there is a hazard in front of you, don’t look at the hazard, look at your escape path.

    Standard brake lights are sufficient to show the hazard, and once notified, you want to look past the suddenly slowing car to see your escape route.

    I’m not saying you can’t do the same when the brake lights are *F*L*A*S*H*I*N*G*, but they will tend to draw the eye more, to be harder to look away from – and – you go where you look.

  6. lee
    October 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Speaking of visual distractions, it would be nice if somebody informed the staties that when they pull some poor slob over at night, especially on a wet night, where construction’s been going on, and the guys in gray carelessly leave their cop car half in the breakdown lane, half in the driving lane, they might ramp down the flashing strobes on the roof rack. Those things are blinding. Whoops, there goes another blinded motorist smashing into the concrete barrier and doing an Immermann — topple, topple, crunch! — while the guy in the Balaclava helmet hat is blithely citing some poor slob for operating a vehicle whose tail light has just gone out or whose inspection sticker expired a couple, three hours ago.

  7. October 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I can see another opportunity for jailbreaking cars here. Which brings me to an interesting proposition.

    American fascism has a unique twist – while it is legal to buy almost anything, there are many MANY things it is illegal to sell. You can buy a car without all these safety features, but nobody can sell you one without these features. Therefore although technically you can choose anything, in practice you cannot.

    So what if someone sells unassembled cars? Everything is offered, and you check which items you want to buy on the purchase order / website. The unassembled car is delivered – but since it isn’t a car yet the purchaser can decline all sorts of features that are common in a showroom floor car.

    Throw it in the woods?

    • October 3, 2012 at 1:17 am

      I don’t think it’s a unique feature of the U.S.A. On the one hand, it’s how Britain handled prostitution (it’s legal to buy, and actually certain kinds of selling are too, at least in practice), and on the other hand the U.S.A. makes it illegal for the buyer too, or so I gather. For Britain the idea wasn’t to find and punish so much as the most practical way to police and eliminate, but the U.S.A. wanted to avoid the double standard of letting off those who were equally “wrong”.

      • October 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm

        Actually, I was thinking of things like CFLs versus standard lightbulbs. Or like raw milk. Fortunately the law that mandates CFLs is temporarly rescinded, but the law was that you could purchase as many standard lightbulbs as you want, but nobody could sell them to you because all bulbs had to meet certain energy efficiency requirements. And all milk that is for sale had to be pasteurized, but you can purchase raw milk.

        Thinks like drugs and prostitution, those go way beyond what I’m calling the unique feature of American Fascism.

        One can buy a car without all these safety features. Nobody can sell you one. So what if cars came unassembled?

        • Mike in Spotsy
          October 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

          I have no idea what the answer to your question is, but can’t resist complimenting you on what might be the most clever screen name on the web.

  8. MoT
    October 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Visual clutter is an apt description for this. It becomes the equivalent of white industrial noise. Before long you no longer notice it. Sort of like “Where’s Waldo” in being able to identify anything. But, of course, it makes it yet another excuse for Leviathan to mandate something.

    • Tor Munkov
      October 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      I saw these for the first time’ a few days ago. Thankfully it was, very small, but still highly annoying. Anything they don’t like, they sabotage. Why not a whoop whoop siren whenever it goes faster than 20mph. Its for the chillldren!
      Look at the mandate of fire safe cigarettes. Who knows what kind of asbestos derivative that is accomplished with. Also makes it hard for a smoker when the damn thing won’t stay lit because of saaaaffffeeeety!

  9. the daily me
    October 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Pay attention? I’m too busy texting about my exodus from the living room to the family room and detailing what i had for supper. Thinking and paying attention is hard so i have mommygov do that for me. (sarc alert)

    • MoT
      October 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Or “tweet” about your latest bowel movement. Sweet Jesus! It really has become that bad.

      • Tor Munkov
        October 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        Status update. I’m adding gin to my OJ instead of the yuje vodka. New hashtag!!! #whatsforbreakfastbiches

        • methylamine
          October 4, 2012 at 9:25 pm

          I’m gonna need something harder to keep my sanity as Amurrrrika collapses around me.

          Something like heroin.

  10. Ethan
    October 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    About those DRLs. I had a GM car with them (POS Aveo), but figured out a good fix. The DRLs would turn off if the e-brake was on, so I just drove around with the e-brake up on the first click. No where near the application point, but enough to trigger the sensor and turn off the headlights. My current car, a 2012 Fiesta, does NOT have DRLs, so they still aren’t universal.

  11. George
    October 2, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    It’s Google, they want to make it impossible for humans to drive so they will have to buy their robot cars.

  12. Some Guy
    October 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I really like classic jazz, so I was happy to see the “Jazz Birthdays” on LRC. You know why I like it? Because it reminds me of a bygone day when adults acted like adults (not overgrown adolescents worried mostly about screwing, sports, and drinking), kids acted like kids (not sluts-in-training and junior thugs), and everyone minded their own damned business. The culture is FUBAR, and only dishonest people will pretend otherwise. We live in a sea of massive debt, which is not being fixed, and we collectively come up with dumb crap like this to worry about and foist on everyone? I guess when people act like brain-damaged children, it’s not surprised that our government is full of people like that, too.

    • MoT
      October 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Well, the part of “overgrown adolescents worried about screwing and drinking” has been going on since DAY 1. It’s only in how those forces are directed that concern me. As we’re all children of our upbringing, and thus carry the baggage of our past with us, I was in a nostalgic mood late last night and headed over to the cultural “way-back machine” called YouTube. I wanted to check out the old disco dancing and R&B tunes of the 70’s. I confess I LIKE it! So shoot me. Back in the day I never paid attention to a Saturday show like American Bandstand or Soul Train. So here I was watching old ST shows with the tunes I loved and I saw people who could actually dance, wear some pretty “funky” clothes, even decent looking, to music that didn’t sound and feel like a piece of throbbing angry gristle being shoved into my ears! Damn! Those folks had some moves. And you didn’t have to be ashamed to sing along nor get close to a girl.

      • Tor Munkov
        October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

        Lots of great libertarian memories. Won’t get fooled again, taxman, sympathy 4 the devil, sweet home al abama, woodent it b nice, the wall, coonskin, fritz the cat, heavy traffic, hong kong fooey, fat albert.

        THE CURRENCY WAS GIVEN ITS FINAL SILVER STAKE IN ITS HEART, BUT AT LEAST THE CULTURE Remained free for a little while longer.

        • MoT
          October 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm

          I was groovin to the O’Jays, The Sylvers, K.C., Earth Wind & Fire and countless others. Watching people do the hustle and babes dressed up the way I remember. Childish, maybe, but it’s stuff like this that helps me “motor through” the challenges of life.

    • Tor Munkov
      October 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I don’ need you to worry bout me cuz I’m alrite. I don’ need you to tell me its time to go home. I don’ care what you say anymore this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.

      B. Joel 1978.

  13. Jack Harrison
    October 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I, too have installed the LED brake flasher on both of my motorcycles, and I am convinced it makes me more noticeable to following vehicles. Never considered what would happen when everyone has them, however. I’m sure you are right! I’ll come up with something else by then, maybe frickin’ lasers or fireballs…

    • October 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Jack,

      Longtime rider here, too.

      The reason the LEDs are a benefit to bikers is because we’ve lost the benefit of being visible as a result of burning our lights in daytime – courtesy of DRLs becoming so common on cars.

      Before DRLs, a bike burning its headlights was much more visible and easy to pick out in traffic…. not anymore.

      • Jack Harrison
        October 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm

        Right – I’m talking about the brake light side of the equation here though – a stopped motorcycle isn’t anything more than a dot of red at a light full of stopped vehicles. Depth perception is an issue with a skinny motorcycle behind a wide car, and easily lost in the visual confusion. A lot of bikes get hit in this manner as they’re simply unseen at a stop light. The strobing LED however stands out really well. I know I’m more visible, there is no doubt that SOMETHING unusual is making that strobe, until all vehicles do this, as was your point…

        I don’t know what to do about the pointy end, but I don’t think flashing headlights is a great idea.

    • Jean
      September 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Caltrops + an ejector for you? ;-)
      Drop the caltrops, if the car behind stops OK, they’re retracted (mounted on chains).
      If the car behind can’t be bothered stopping, you get ejected from the bike (on theory it will be destroyed) and that car stays there until the cops show up….

      Silly idea, but I like the idea of injuring those who would kill me.

  14. bhees
    October 2, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Backup cameras could be great but they’re done wrong. The display screen should be near the rear window, not the dashboard.

    Your unaided eyes have a much wider field of view, and more natural, than a backup camera. The backup camera is only good for showing what’s hidden from view directly behind your car. It should be a supplement to turning around and looking out the back of the car, not a replacement for it. That’s why the best location for the screen is near the rear window.

    • October 2, 2012 at 9:13 am

      They’d be even greater if they were entirely optional.

    • October 3, 2012 at 1:01 am

      On that point, that’s why I like something I’ve sometimes seen, a diverging Fresnel lens panel applied to a small part of the inside of a hatchback’s rear window. That doesn’t give a good image, but it does offer a fish eye effect that works like peripheral vision.

  15. dom
    October 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Credit where credit is due. That video belongs to and was posted on Clover Cam by BrentP. I just added it to a post we had on here somewhere.

    Here it is again.

    Massively annoying!

    • Scott
      October 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

      Brake Dance? How about a Safety Dance?

      • dom
        October 4, 2012 at 12:10 am

        I mean, if you say so…

      • BrentP
        October 4, 2012 at 12:17 am

        The song and video for “safety dance” is associated with good memories. I wouldn’t sully it with this. :)

        • dom
          October 4, 2012 at 12:18 am

          It was the first music video I ever watched on MTV and memorized! Ha

        • Scott
          October 4, 2012 at 12:20 am

          I’ve always felt it was important to maintain a sense of humor in my dealings with Clover. It infuriates him :)

  16. Doug
    October 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    The mandate of a Flashing CHMSL would be almost as stupid as those Automotive Illiterates at NHTSA NOT requiring Amber Rear Turn Signals, a Rear Fog Light and White (not amber) Front Sidelights separate from the Blinkers – things introduced in Europe nearly a half century ago. But since Detroit does not want the added cost of better lights (even though the few cars they sell in the EU have this lighting) and NHSTA is up their asses anyway, they will continue to roll the same cheap, subpar shit off their assembly lines.

    • BrentP
      October 2, 2012 at 3:55 am

      It’s not even a cost thing any more. These days a good lamp and poor one are going to cost nearly the same. It’s an arrogance thing from the bureaucrats. They really think the US regs with up aimed headlamps and other nonsense is better according to what I learned from people who should know. From the domestics it’s market protection by keeping cars different and a styling thing.

      The lighting requirements as they are act to keep people from exporting and importing cars. Some of the import makes also encourage US laws to prevent private importation. Marketeers want to control what goes where. Different regs help them do that. They also increase the costs for foreign automakers to sell cars in the USA.

      On styling, if the automakers wanted lower cost the law would have never been changed from sealed beams. When everything used sealed beams the economies of scale made them incredibly cheap. They want to be free to style the cars as they see fit, functionality suffers, it suffers. The end. Back in the sealed beam days it was easy to replace the sealed beam lamps with ECE compliant lamps with separate bulbs. They just fit into the same spot. Now it’s only possible when cars are sold in multiple markets without changing the styling in any significant way.

      One of the autos forums I used to follow had a regular that was an automotive lighting engineer. I learned a lot about this particular facet.

      • October 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

        All the points made about modern composite-type headlamp assemblies are true, but I’m someone who just prefers solid functionality, simplicity of design and reasonable cost.

        As dramatic-looking as the composite plastic HID and projector-type units are, they all start to look like shit within a few years. Yes, you can polish out the yellow… to a point. After awhile, the inside surfaces begin to deteriorate. And you can’t polish those. The cheap plastic chrome loses its luster. The plastic itself is easily chipped and scratched. By about eight years out, they’re sad and old-looking. Meanwhile, glass never fades. Much less vulnerable to scratches.

        Composite headlight assemblies are also very expensive to replace. As much as 5-6 times the cost of a sealed beam unit (about $120 per vs. $20 per). Some of the composite assemblies cost $300 each – or more.

        Sure, they provide superior illumination. But a good set of halogens works well, too.

        I have two Nissan Frontiers, a ’98 and a 2002. Identical, except for minor styling differences – one being the ’02 has “assemblies” vs. universal style sealed beam glass bricks in the ’98.

        The ’98’s headlights still look new. The ’02’s are yellowed. Well, the left side one is yellowed. Last year, I hit a deer and had to replace the right-side “assembly.” The new unit cost more than the front fender – $130 and change… for a headlight. The ’98s cost about $30 each.

        I’m just rendering a personal/economic value judgment.

        For me, a car should not be a financial albatross around one’s neck. But they’ve become that way, for all but the very affluent. It’s one of the reasons, in my opinion, why people who aren’t affluent are increasingly in debt up to their eyeballs and struggling to keep their heads above water.

        Perhaps $300 a piece (or even $120 a piece) headlights are sensible – or acceptable – in a $35,000 or more new car. But when I see them fitted to $17,000 cars – even $14,000 cars – I just shake my head and wonder….

        • MoT
          October 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

          My dad used to tell me about European light assemblies back in the 70’s when I was a teen. He’d been stationed there ever since the 50’s and as he also was a trained auto mechanic he would say the only reason American automobiles kept the sealed beam was because it was cheaper, way back then remember, for the European style than the domestic American ones. Seems all turned upside down since then. Now the question I have is since they had the composite system in Europe, and a much better turn signal color arrangement as well, were the headlights made of a plastic material then or were they made of glass? I don’t really know.

          • BrentP
            October 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

            ECE requirements still require a superior beam pattern. I believe the glass requirement was dropped.

        • BrentP
          October 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

          aero or styled headlamps used to be made of glass. I had an ’86 mazda with glass headlamp assemblies. Glass was killed primarily on the alter of inflation and fuel economy. The end cost of using plastic is a cost savings, but probably wouldn’t be worth doing with regard to profits without inflationary pressures given all the secondary processes, hard coats, development costs, etc. It’s more a price point retainer than making an extra buck. Glass could be a selling point in a noninflationary system and thus could in the end be more profitable.

  17. Dave
    October 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    How will this affect epileptics? Flashing lights can trigger a seizure.

    What will sitting at a light looking at all of those flashing lights do to epileptic drivers or passengers?

    • Mamba
      October 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      What happens when this epilitic is pulled over at night and try and warn the officer of the flashing lights and their condition? Think he’ll turn them off?

      What if the seizure starts as he’s approaching the vehicle? Cop won’t assume seizure, they will assume drugs or insanity, fear for their safety, and out comes the tazer/gun.

      We all know this to be true…no way a cop is going to assume innocence if they see someone agitated in a drivers seat during a stop.

      P.S. Not a hypothetical…was giving a friend a ride home who was epilitic and was pulled over randomly. They closed their eyes and covered them with their hands to protect themselves. when the cop approached, he asked rudely what’s with them and I explained. The cop refused to turn off the lights, and INSISTED that my friend open their eyes (the cop obviously assumed we were lying and that they were hiding drugged-up eyes). He spoke to them insisting that he’d show his eyes but they’d have to turn off the lights or he’ll seizure. The prick would have none of this, we all had to get out of the car, and sure enough as soon as the cop handcuffed him, seizure begins!!! The cop did NOTHING to help him, still wouldn’t shut off the fucking light, and luckily his partner saw what was happening (he was in the squad car the whole time), killed the lights, and ran to at least brace my friend until it passed.

      Of course he tried to shrug the whole thing off as if it’s OUR fault, but my friend sued. I don’t need to tell you how that went.

      • methylamine
        October 4, 2012 at 2:05 am

        I’m guessing at the outcome of your friend’s suit against the cop….qualified immunity?

        Ah yes. To be a complete, utter, ruthless asshole with total impunity! The dream of every psychopath.

        So nice there’s a home for them in government, and the government-protection racket called “policing”.

      • dom
        October 4, 2012 at 2:32 am

        Sad story, but I’ve seen this exact behavior first hand on a few occasions. That is just how they are, pathetic losers.

        P.S. Romney gave Obama a fucking beat down tonight! DAMN

  18. BrentP
    October 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    The video of the SUV ‘brake dance’ is mine. the brake lamps appeared to work normally outside that little dance.

    Blinking CHMSL’s were popular aftermarket crap in the 80s. I doubt they will be adopted as law now. For blinking at high decel like ECE regs? Forget about that too. USDOT likes to keep things ‘different’. Their own arrogance will prevent that from becoming mandated.

    DRLs. DRLs almost became mandated in the USA because GM purchased a DRL company and they were mandated in Canada. There was an organized push back in autos forums on the net altering people to the public comment phase. I wrote one myself objecting to DRLs and glare of USDOT requirements. (I have very good night vision but am sensitive to glare hence: http://ericpetersautos.com/2011/08/09/high-beams-are-not-spare-bulbs/ )

    • October 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      On Sunday morning, on the way to the gym, we came up behind a brand-new Challenger. It had the “dancing” CHMSL. It pissed me off so much I just had to go off on a rant!

      • JungianINTP
        October 3, 2012 at 3:16 am

        In 1975, I had worked on an invention

        designed to trigger the brake lights

        whenever one took one’s foot off of

        the gas pedal, which purpose was for

        eliminating the critical second of risk

        of an up-ahead-driver just hovering

        over the brake pedal, and coasting along

        while he/she decides whether or not the

        possible hazard warrants tapping or hitting

        the brakes.

        There’s too much risk in allowing foot-off-the-pedal, no-brake-lights coasting in heavy traffic. Too many wait far too long before alerting the following vehicles.

        I paid a patent agent $500 for processing, but learned others had had the same idea–but that I could package and sell a kit under a certain provision in the patent laws. Too expensive; too risky–for me.

        Maybe you’d try it, Eric.

        • BrentP
          October 3, 2012 at 4:13 am

          To me it’s a bad idea. It eventually gets people not knowing the difference between engine braking, coasting, and actually using the brakes. The brake lamps become nearly meaningless.

          However taillamps that signaled coasting were shown at least as early as 1970.

          http://www.amcarguide.com/concept/1970-mustang-milano-concept/

        • October 3, 2012 at 5:28 am

          Hi JTP,

          An interesting concept, but I’m still one of those curmudgeons who takes the position that the underlying problem is better addressed by expecting a higher level of competence – or at least, attentiveness – of the driver.

          Good (skilled, alert, responsible) drivers rarely have “accidents.” Many never do.

          It’s not so much the car, or the situation.

          It’s the driver.

          • JungianINTP
            October 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm

            Yes, Eric, re dependence on

            competence over increasing

            “safety” through gadgetry.

            But you may have noticed that

            our collective, hereditable IQ

            has been crashing from the

            Sixties forward.

            BTW, my invention was a switch in the vacuum system, which detected positive and negative pressure, and which lit the brake lights whenever it detected coasting (deceleration)–the driver’s hovering over the brake pedal.

          • Michael
            October 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm

            My first car with DRLs was a 2000 Corvette. It was just parking lights, not halogens or headlights on today’s cars so I don’t believe that was a distraction. And it made it easier to spot fellow Corvette drivers. But today with DRLs and automatic headlight operation I have experienced a number of problems on the road. Drivers either only drive with DRLs during low-light/low visibility conditions, thinking they can see just fine, not realizing that lighting is as much about being seen as seeing, or they rely on the automatic function to turn their lights on. DRLs do not turn on taillights. Last winter I’m driving in the fog on the freeway and come up on a car with no taillights, almost run into them because the are driving below the limit in the fast lane. As I go past them, I look in the mirror and see they have either fog lights or DRLs on. That happened numerous times usually an SUV.

            When I first saw the flashing center brakelights I thought isn’t that cute – I almost put the mod on my car. Then I realized that you couldn’t tell if the driver was slamming on the brakes or just check-braking. Not just a distraction but a safety issue.

      • Olaf Koenders
        December 15, 2012 at 6:28 am

        Right with you there Eric. This might be just a passing phase, as I’m about to explain:

        Fads come and go in roughly 20 year cycles. Back in the ’60’s and ’80’s in Australia, we had huge sunglasses, baggy jeans, flared jeans made a comeback and, we had those flashing eye-level stoppies for the first time in ’83.

        I remember these things well as I’m also near 45. We have rellies in Holland, and they told us the flashies were banned over there back then, for the exact same reasons: “Aww.. look at the pretty..” BANG!

        We’ve recently again seen bug-eye sunnies, flared jeans and the usual crap make a comeback. It’s almost time for baggy jeans again, and the flashies. I can’t remember if the flashies were banned here tho.

        But I DID love those tight flared jeans. They could make (almost) any woman look good [slurp]..

        • Olaf Koenders
          December 15, 2012 at 6:33 am

          Oh.. I was gonna add that nobody should need flashing eye-level brake lights anyway, since the clovers are stomping on the pedal constantly anyway, likely to the beat of the TeleTubbies theme song.. ;)

          If your US counterpart Gestapo manage to make them a safety requirement, it won’t be long before they look foolish and have to retract them.

          • Jean
            September 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

            Since when has (someone else) looking FOOLISH ever mattered to fed.gov?
            Worse, when THEY look foolish, they double-down on their idiocy. PRIDE UBER ALLES!

            Who cares who dies as long as the proles know their place?

  19. MoT
    October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    The notion that one has to have ones headlights on all the time never made sense to me. Now come twilight I understand but in the full of the day? C’mon! When did people stop paying attention?

  20. Tor Munkov
    October 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Hilarious. They won’t stop until we’re all gathered around their flashing urgent emergency broadcast shows; moths to the flames of power and burning piles of criminals and terrorists set ablaze for shock awe and saaafety! Flap flap flap flap flap flap splat!

  21. James
    October 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Crap. Now I can look forward to losing the advantage that the following device provides whilst I am on two wheels:

    http://signaldynamics.com/index.php/products/led-lighting?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=40&category_id=14 (I have no affiliation with this company.)

    Most drivers do provide extra space, when coming to a stop, in response to my flashing brake light. I’ve made it a point to install the SD module on every motorcycle that I purchase.

    Think of the future, and think pity the poor rider who gets bumped from behind. The offending driver will have been conditioned to look for flashing lights, courtesy of the now-ubiquitous blinking CHMSLs. The rider, for his own reasons, may not have installed the aforementioned module on his bike. Thus, upon application of the brakes, his 1157 bulb gets bright but doesn’t flash. The once-and-done illumination increase doesn’t register with the following driver.

    BUMP

    • mikehell
      October 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      I think that blinking brake lights are ok on bikes but the blinking bike headlamps that I’ve seen are extremely annoying and distracting for on-coming drivers. Please don’t use those.

      • October 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

        I’ve seen those on motorcycles too…I would think it would really fuck with your vision at night on a dark road. Imagine using 2 strobe lights for headlights on your car and try driving.

        • The other Ken
          October 2, 2012 at 12:40 am

          The Federal laws governing them dictate that flashing headlights include an ambient light sensor that prevents them from flashing when it’s dark. The same rules specify the blink rate to ensure that it is not in the hertz range that is known to trigger seizures.

          • Jean
            September 22, 2014 at 10:04 am

            OOOhhh…. I want to over-ride that “seizures” setting…. Hope the cops all are prone! :-D

      • James
        October 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm

        You are referring to headlight modulators. Legal in all 50 states, they are engineered to function during daylight hours only. I don’t disagree with the suggestion that they can be distracting to oncoming drivers. However, this distraction means that the driver has SEEN the rider. This outcome is the primary selling point for such devices.

        I choose not to use a headlight modulator at this time. If circumstances ever serve to change my mind, I would install one on my motorcycle without a moment’s hesitation.

    • Bill Jansen
      October 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      I’ve been a pilot, and Flying Magazine subscriber for many years, and vividly recall about 10 years past when ALPA (Association of Airline Pilots) stood up to the “safety” Nazis. More and more blinking lights, recorded warnings, etc had slowly been added, so the pilots had routinely been shutting them off so they could think about flying the plane! The result was the “Sterile Cockpit” rule which is still in effect. No “routine” warnings (e.g., “The ground is getting closer!” on every landing!) This was after three accidents where the plane hit the Earth (well, twice it was water!) while all the while the flashing lights and warning messages were clearly heard on the Black Box. Your article is right on the money.

    • tessam
      July 21, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      thanks for writing about these blinking lights. I am one of a growing number of people that can still drive safely, but have visual episodes to blinking lights. I have multiple sclerosis. I drive conservatively. not in the dark, not in blinding rain, and not in heavy traffic. but I still drive. and I very much need and want to continue. blinking lights create a “too much” stimulus mode on the brain. I know I have this MS. its visual problem is very much akin to petit mal or visual epilepsy. how many don’t know they have it? do you know how many distractions blinking lights make? I am so focused on getting away from the blinking lights I’m distracted. it also produces an anger. not an uncontrollable one. but definite cascade of anger, then depression.. I am not the only one. I just recognize what these blinking lights do. wonder about the wrecks where people don’t know what caused them to get road rage? they might be further along in visual pattern problems thank I. lets think about this before everyone is blinking.

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