Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Braking Bad: How to Reduce Car Accidents Quickly and Cheaply

I have a solution that local governments and their residents can start implementing immediately that will greatly reduce accidents. It's simple, and will financially benefit the cities who use it. Ticket or tax every car owner with a broken or missing middle break light. 

I recently started at a new company and so I'm getting used to a completely new commute. On my new morning drive, there is a lot of stop and go traffic, despite it being 99% freeway. Every lane slows and speeds up at different intervals, at different rates, at different times. Many vehicles are taller than mine and/or have shaded windows, preventing me from being able to see two cars ahead. Thus, I am relying a lot on the brake lights of just a single vehicle. Since the sun was still rising, it was difficult to tell if the left and right lights were lit up for braking or just because the headlights were on. That middle brake light was the only reliable indicator of braking. And here's the problem: THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY VEHICLES WITH BROKEN OR MISSING MIDDLE BRAKE LIGHTS.

Can you tell the difference?

Without that clear indicator, at that time of day, it is very easy to mistake brake lights for running lights. But that's a costly mistake: reaction time is often the difference between crashing and avoiding a crash. And of course, accidents often cause rubber necking and additional congestion, which leads to more accidents. Any reduction in the initial collisions will have a snowballing effect of reducing additional accidents. 

So my proposal is to simply ticket/tax and charge the owners (defined by who registered the vehicles) with broken or missing middle brake lights. There are many ways to implement this simple idea, but the primary goal is to get those cars off the road or get the middle brake lights installed or fixed. Cars can be examined at the same time as emissions, for example. At that point, registration is either denied or an expensive fee is assessed. Alternatively, police can focus, even for a short period of time, on pulling drivers over and issuing the tickets. Publicizing this focus will be a big deterrent for many drivers not wanting to get pulled over. 

My camera actually caught more light from the brakes than I was actually seeing, so these photos don't even do justice to the true difficulty of seeing the brake lights.

How important is this? I would argue this is equally as important, if not more, than the emphasis on DUIs. Hear me out: its not the drunkenness that kills people, its the fact that drunk drivers have slowed reaction times, poor decision making and/or are not paying attention. But if every other driver and pedestrian was watching out for and able to avoid that drunk driver, than the worst she can do is kill herself. Drunk driving or not, defensive drivers can save you, even if you make a mistake or an illegal maneuver, but only if they can tell what you're doing. The problem with the brake lights is that without that clear indicator, other drivers do not have that information and cannot make adjustments in a timely manner to avoid collision. Also, DUIs by their nature are achieved when people when their decision making is impaired; either they think they're ok to drive or they are willing to take the risk because calling a cab and then finding a way to get their cars back the following day seems like too much of a hassle. Fixing the brake light issue, on the other hand, is a proactive, sober decision that not only prevents future hassles (getting pulled over, dealing with a fender bender), it will save them money if a ticket is prevented, and could save their lives. But the risk of getting ticketed must be present for those arguments to have the effect needed to drive action.

No comments:

Post a Comment