Science News

Putting the brakes on car accidents

Sun, 11th Mar 2007

Part of the show Naked Scientists Question and Answer Show

Canadian researchers have come up with a way to make the roads safer, with a revolution in brake-light design. University of Toronto researchers Zhonghai Li and Paul Milgram realised that although brake lights signal when a car in front may be
slowing down, they give no indication of how hard the brakes have been applied. To get around this problem they came up with triangular brake lights that grow larger and also move outwards the harder the brakes are applied. They start off as a triangular cluster of three lights on each side close to the middle of the car. With more urgent use of the brakes the lights enlarge and move outwards. When they tested the system on 40 drivers using a simulator the biggest gains were during poor driving conditions.

The team hope that their new invention, which they aim to build using low-power LEDs, will make a significant dent in the numbers of rear-end collisions, which make up about 30% of road crashes in countries like the US, UK and Australia.

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