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…


8 Comments on “Good invention – SuddenStop lights”

  1. Jonathan Brazil says:

    It’s a good idea alright Ellie. Ironically/conveniently an awful lot of the tailgaters that I have come across in this country happen to drive Japanese imports. So depending on the perspective of these folk having to break quickly or needing to be informed of quick breaking the situation is either good or bad. If they need to break quickly because of their tailgating then they can install the American device as Japanese rear plates are the same shape, helping to inform anyone behind them. However, if they need to be informed then the situation is as you say. It is frightening how many people don’t realise how far you need, to stop safely. Perhaps in time the electronic limiters they currently have in hi-end Mercs for helping emergency breaking by measuring the distance to the car in front will be in all cars, protecting our idle/distracted minds.

  2. Deborah says:

    Excellent idea! I learned how to drive in the US. I always thought it was a terrible idea to let teenagers drive, but I tell you I’d rather be let loose in a whole country full of teenage drivers than with Irish drivers. It’s terrifying. The thing that irks me more than anything is the fact that no one puts their lights on in the fog or the rain. HELLO! *SIGH*

  3. ellybabes says:

    Jonathan it would be great if they could become standard!

    Deborah – or they turn them on and leave them on for days!

  4. Adrian Smith says:

    Renault (among others I’m sure) have a similar feature in some of their models. As part of their Emergency Brake Assist feature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_brake_assist) the hazard lights flash when you brake suddenly.

  5. K8 the Gr8 says:

    Most cars seems to favour the old ‘stick yer flashers on’ when there’s a sudden halt in traffic.
    Problem is it takes a while to locate the button which is probably why there are so many crashes! Good idea, girly.

  6. Stephen McCarron says:

    My new Mercedes has this feature, if you stop suddenly the brakelights ‘go nuts’ and flash away, and if you come to a full stop the car also automatically activates the hazard warning lights. Standard kit now on the higher end new Mercs.

  7. ellybabes says:

    Heard you changed the car Stephen – it’s good though, because if it’s available on high-end cars now then it should filter down to most of them over the next decade. I guess that I’ll just need to find a job that pays me as much as yours so that I can afford a Merc!

  8. Stephen McCarron says:

    Nice to know my car(s) are a topic of conversation ;) No doubt they’ll filter down as standard feature on cars, starting with Renault, and the usual more security/safety conscious marques.

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