A few months ago I was in the car with my hubbie, heading down to Laois on the motorway. On Irish roads we see a lot of tailgaters, and I noticed about five cars traveling very close together. A car pulled out in front of this chain to overtake, but was traveling much slower than the group of five. They all had to brake quite hard and I thought that the guys at the back were about to run into the others. This gave me an idea, but more about the background first…
Most people don’t think of the time needed to both react and brake when traveling at speed. After a bad multiple-car accident that happened in thick fog earlier this year, the hubbie did some calculating of just how quickly you cover distances and how quickly you can stop. He was shocked by the calculations and realised that a lot of people drive too close to other cars in this country.
There are a couple of things that never seem to be taken into account in the reaction time calculations, firstly non-road distractions and secondly braking force.
Let me explain… A good reaction time is under half a second, but that’s only if you are fully concentrating on the road. In modern cars we can easily be distracted by onboard computers, lighting a cigarette, tuning the radio, changing a CD, even looking at your kids in the rearview mirror – next thing you glance back at the road and there’s brake lights and you’re approaching them quickly and you have to slam on your own brakes.
The second point I’d raise is the fact that there is no indication of just how hard the car in front is braking. The brake lights are a binary system, on or off – the exact same whether you are just tapping the brakes lightly to adjust speed or braking hard to avoid an accident or incident ahead.
So back to my idea – I turned to George and mentioned that surely it would be a good thing if the additional brake light at the top of the rear windscreen worked on a graduated basis. For example if there were five sections to the light and the heavier the braking the more of them that lit up – all five lit being a full emergency stop. George wasn’t keen on the idea and pointed out that different cars brake differently and that you could never get the manufacturers to agree to a standard.
Well, now a company in America has released SuddenStop. It’s a license plate frame that can calculate G-forces, and when you suddenly decelerate its LEDs go nuts, flashing brightly for three seconds and alerting the driver behind you. There’s no wiring and anyone that can handle a screwdriver can install it in about two minutes.
The battery should last for 15,000 hours and as a nice touch, they’ve added a test button so that you don’t have to get your mate to drive behind you while you brake heavily to test that it’s working.
I think it’s a great idea, and it’s a shame that it’s only available in the US at the moment. Of course US license plates are normally affixed with a surround and they are metal, compared with the plastic that we use in Europe. But I’m sure that some young entrepreneur will find a way to build this into EU reg plates in the near future – and it would be a great and cheap way to make our roads a little safer…