Designing for Safety

When I was learning how to drive one thing my dad made crystal clear to me was that my job as a driver–to increase my safety and the safety of those around me–was to be predictable. It is much simpler to plan where you are going to put yourself and your vehicle if you can guess where all the vehicles around you are going to be. To that end we have a number of tools at our disposal to communicate to other drivers both where we are and where we’re going to be.

However, one of these tools is woefully inadequate: the caution lights. Today, while driving home, I was again annoyed by the universal design of vehicle caution lights. The problem that caution lights existence are trying to solve is to draw attention to the vehicle in question so that you can respond accordingly. A common use case for me is to communicate a difference in speed between normal traffic and my vehicle, or to provide additional visibility of my vehicle in adverse weather conditions.

Caution lights work wonderfully when a vehicle is motionless on the side of the road: other drivers notice and often adjust their driving patterns by moving over or slowing down. This breaks down once a vehicle using their caution lights starts moving. Instead of having turn signals, it now has blinking lights that communicate no information about where the vehicle is planning to be and we lose one of the best tools for providing predictability. There is an incredibly simple solution to this problem (which has been in the back of my mind for at least a decade) which I have yet to see implemented: double-time the blinker on one side to indicate that the vehicle’s turn signal has been activated.

It’s that easy folks. Auto-makers, please make this tiny change to improve the safety of every driver on the road.

One thought on “Designing for Safety”

  1. this would be much nicer than my current solution: turn off hazard lights when turning on blinker

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