A Simple Solution to a Lethal Problem

'Red is the new orange?'In the two minutes it takes you to read this you will learn  three things:

1. There’s a huge problem that  directly threatens you and your loved ones .   (2) There’s a simple, cheap, fail-safe solution.  (3) No one is asking your for money or your time.

 FACT:  Each year in America, nearly 800 people die because someone ran a red light.

FACT:  Each month close to 400 million dollars is spent handling these particular collisions.  That’s close to $5,000,000,000 a year we needlessly spend while we kill 800 of our family, friends, and neighbors.  

aaa running lightLet’s look more closely at this scenario:  Imagine that someone you love  has just left on a quick errand.  They grab the keys and call out,”See ya later” as they go out the door, while you’re busy doing your own quotidian chores.

Split-screen now.  You’re still on the computer, but your loved one has just pulled up to the stoplight.  She waits a bit, and then the light turns green.  She hesitates a moment…just to be sure, and then pulls out as she has 100 times before.  Only this time, someone has run the red light.  The last thing your spouse sees is the high-speed blur of a car just before it T-bones into the driver’s door.  This is the worst kind of accident.  It’s generally lethal for the one who has just pulled out and often lethal for both.

IS THERE A SOLUTION?  Yes, there is.  Why hasn’t anyone pushed this forward yet?  I Don’t Know…….  What I propose is cheap.  It actually prevents the accident from ever happening in the first place . It’s so amazingly simple, you’ll be able to see the merit here in the time it takes you to read the next paragraph.

Now, let me run the same scenario by you.  Your wife goes out on that same errand.  She stops at the light and waits.  In the opposing direction the light is now sequencing to red…only the motion sensor in the unit senses an object coming up fast.  It’s that same car about to run the red light. Only this time, a small, inexpensive motion sensor triggers a change in the sequencing.  What your wife sees, is the  traffic light, which has been red for 50 seconds suddenly flashing ORANGE.  For a half-second she stares at it and thinks,  Huh??????

A small sensor and a very simple program have warned her NOT to enter the intersection.  At that moment the intersection has turned into a killing field.  A second and a half later she sees the blur of a car that has actually accelerated in order to beat the light.  She is shook.  Her life has just been saved by a fifty dollar sensor that’s been installed.   Your wife decides just to turn around and drive straight home.  She comes in the door, looking pale. She says,”Hey babe…..”  She gives you a huge hug and explains what has just happened.

aaaa red light cartoonSkeptics:  Don’t they already have something or other now for that?  SORT OF…and I mean that in the most cynical way.

They are called Red Light Safety Cameras which take a picture of the car as it’s speeding through the red light.  Then a ticket is sent out to the speeder and in this way it helps discourage the number of transgressors.  Yeah, that’s great, only it doesn’t keep your loved one from getting killed.   It just takes a picture so that some municipality can send someone a ticket.  It doesn’t stop the death from happening.  The  National Highway Safety Administration almost got it right, but they missed something that will slam-dunk solve the problem:

Once again, this is not expensive technology.  Many, many cameras are already in your intersection already.  As such this modification could be quite cheap, indeed.   End result:  800 precious lives are saved and 400,000,000.00 isn’t utterly wasted each month.  Gee, I wonder where we could get the funding to put these devices in.  Maybe that 400 million dollars that’s saved each month could pay for the program.  I’m pretty sure there will be a whole lot left…possibly to be spent on the next improvement below.

If you agree, you might also send this out to some friends and relatives you love, care for and respect.  You have Facebook friends?  Ever started something for the good that went viral?  Here is your chance to make a huge difference in America. 

aaaa tail lightWhile I have your attention, one last point:   This one’s also a no-brainer and easy to do.  Way back when, we didn’t have seatbelts, airbags, etc. etc. etc.  Today, however,we STILL have 1940s sophistication in our brake lights.   Although we have nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic doing 60+ going into our cities, we STILL have brake lights that are either on…or off.  What’s worse, for motorists who run with lights on, the distinction of hitting the brakes is just too subtle.  I propose a very simple three-tiered brake light.

Tier I: When you slow down a bit to fit in with the traffic…your regular lights come on normally.

Tier II:  The traffic in front of you is slowing a lot quicker than it should.  You press harder on the brakes and an extra bright LED light bulb array flashes on as well.  Suddenly you have BRAKE LIGHTS.

aaaa tailightsTier III:   Emergency Scenario:  Some kid has just tried to run across the highway in front of you.  Or  a deer, or an accident just happened in front of you.  You JAM on the brakes and your LED array starts flashing super-fast.  Even from half a mile back all the drivers now know that something dangerous is playing out.   Know how many rear-end collisions there are, just in America…every single year?   2.5 million.


Henry Portrait Shot

Henry Harvey harveygallery@gmail.com

It doesn’t have to be this way.  You, and I, and your friends, and your loved ones can make a difference.  Do you have something else that is more important to do right now?  

You don’t have to lick (or buy) a stamp.  You don’t even have to pull out your stationery and quill pen.

 Here’s someone you might contact:  It’s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  They might   notice one or two emails.  But I guarantee you they’ll notice fifty or a hundred…or a thousand.   It starts here folks, with your spending 45 seconds to go the contact link below and forward away.  http://www.nhtsa.gov/Laws-Regs    Same with the rest below. 

Have you ever written to your congressman?  Put it on your bucket list.  Here’s how you find out where to send it   http://www.house.gov/representatives/

How about your two  state senators?  Put this on your bucket list as well…and maybe save 800 lives a year.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_United_States_Senators

Feeling creative?  Does your town have a mayor?  Does your state have a governor?  In thirty seconds you can locate a car manufacturer and send an email right to the president.  I’m sending mine out at the end of this sentence.  You could actually forward an e-mail to more than one!

Here is GM’s Headquarters:  Wake ’em up this morning!  Check out the sites and then forward away.  Doesn’t cost you a cent.  http://www.gm.com/toolbar/contactUs.html  




8 Responses to "A Simple Solution to a Lethal Problem"

  1. Phil Kaufman says:

    Occam’s Razor….and inexpensive too.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    Yup, considering what hangs in the balance, it’s inexpensive as hell.
    I’m wondering what Occam’s position would be on the new floating head electric razors.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    I love this. Actual solutions to actual problems.
    Just a minor point. Flashing orange as in an actual orange light requires extra hardware in the controls and in the fixtures. If you meant flashing the red and yellow simultaneously, that does not. But if you meant that it is not clear.
    Keep up the good work!

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hey Craig!
      Good to hear.
      Yup, there are probably eight or ten cheap good ways this can be accomplished. I suppose the cheapest would be to just extend the red in the other lane, but I think having a flashing yellow would make everybody aware that something potentially dangerous is about to happen. Thanks for the input.

  4. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to catch up on your regular commentaries. This time, I have a suggestion you might consider.
    Most new luxury cars are equipped with sensors that automatically apply the brakes when they detect a solid object, like a car or person in front of them. Now being the cynic that I am, I’m aware that this technology is being milked for every penny from the high-dolllar car market before making it a standard safety feature.

    How difficult and expensive would it be for the a sensor in the traffic light system to send signal to all vehicles that there is “a solid object ahead, (yellow or red light) you must stop” and force the vehicle about to run the red light stop. The auto makers might have to give up a little short-term swag, but it certainly could save lives as well.

    Just a thought.

    As always, you are my hero.


    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hey Mike,
      I think you are prescient with the reality that things are absolutely bound to be much different even in the next five or ten years. In the future, I’ll bet a fiver that the police will be able to control the speed of someone trying to evade their pursuit. And you’re right, the autonomy of our cars will increase with every passing year. It’s heartening and also a bit scary. With specific reference to this red-light running, a laws of physics problem presents itself. Can a car entering an intersection accurately assess that it’s about to get t-boned…broadsided? I don’t have that answer.
      thanks Mike!!!

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Great ideas. I just sent both suggestions to NHTSA.

    My wife and I visited your gallery/workshop in PA in 2005 or so and bought a large 3-panel piece for our home outside of Austin, TX. I enjoy reading your emails and your thoughts on such a wide variety of topics.

    Tommy Worsham

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    Good show!!!
    One of these days you may look up at a stop light or see some tail lights before you and think, “Hey, I’m part of that change!”

    Thank you Tommy!
    It’s pretty certain we won’t agree on everything…but that’s part of the fun, too. Playing it safe doesn’t move the ball forward very far.

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