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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Police Flashing Lights

A Note of concern to all Policemen

I was just doing a lot of highway driving this week, and passed by a number of Police cars with their flashing lights on. It seems to me like over the years they keep getting brighter and have more individual lights and faster flashes.

It was at night time, and while I was driving on a curve, one Police car on the opposite side of the freeway was right in front of me, but still pretty far away (a few blocks) and yet the lights were bright enough to temporarily blind me for a second while looking straight ahead. I could see the Police car, but not the road directly in front of me, since there were no street lights at that part of the freeway. And the policeman himself was nearly invisible.

I remembered an article in the paper a while back that said that a certain type of commercial, and cartoons were banned in China because a number of Chinese children had had seizures while watching them. The main aspect that caused the seizures was flashing lights and the vibrating/pulsating visual patterns used in the backgrounds of the cartoons.

This suddenly reminded me of the police lights. I also recall seeing some very dramatic footage of policemen who had stopped by the freeway and were struck by vehicles who swerved right into them while passing the pulled-over cars.

I wonder if the police have considered the fact that Neurological Doctors use flashing lights to diagnose seizure disorders, using them to induce a seizure in the office to get a diagnosis.

I remember taking my son to a Neurologist to diagnose him. He was given a mild sedative, electrodes were placed all over his scalp, and then he was put into a darkened room and had a strobe light turned on him.

If using a strobe-like light is reliable enough to induce a seizure in a Doctor's office, I wonder how many people have to risk getting a seizure while driving on the freeway as they pass a police car at night.

Many seizures go undiagnosed because they are temporary and mild and only cause a very short loss of awareness that can appear just like a blank stare. Now, this usually wouldn't cause any trouble if you were, say in a classroom, or on the couch watching TV, and you might not even be aware that this was happening to you. Other people might think you are just not paying attention or are very tired and nodding off.

But it only takes moments on the freeway to drive off into the ditch when you are traveling at 65 miles an hour. Or perhaps you are driving right past a vehicle parked by the side of the road, and so you have even less time before your car hits something as it wanders...because you don't even have the pull-over lanes to give you some leeway.

And what if it is that vehicle parked by the side of the road that caused you to blank out in the first place??

Construction vehicles now have similar brightly flashing lights.

These very bright flashing lights might work great if someone is really nodding off due to lack of sleep, or to sedatives they might have taken the night before, or because they have had some alcohol.

But what if there is another entire group of dangerous people on the road? The sober ones who have an undiagnosed, or untreated, or under-treated seizure disorder? What if a person forgot to take their seizure medication that morning? By evening they might be in danger, but only if driving at night and passing a vehicle that has its flashing lights on.

I hate to bring up a problem and not at least attempt a solution. I suggest that perhaps there are frequencies of flashes that are more seizure-inducing than others. Perhaps some simple research studies could be done where a Neurologist could work with the Police Department to find out which frequencies, what brightness levels of the lights, what colors of the lights, and what number of individual lights would work best to both alert a sleepy or drunk driver as well as avoid inducing a seizure in susceptible people.

I remember that the lights used to be part of a solid bar of diffused lights with only two colors and the flashes were much slower. Perhaps the brightness could be adjusted so that if a driver were to be driving right at the car they wouldn't cause glare-blindness like I experienced.

Or if that is impossible, I suggest that all curved roads be marked off limits so that police would not stop at locations that would require oncoming traffic to look right at them. Or perhaps barriers could be put to interfere with the lights, even a pull-off that was further from the road and perhaps had some thin bushes to block some of the light. You wouldn't want a barrier that would allow someone to have secrecy along the freeway for illicit purposes, however.

At the time, an idea came to me that Police cars could have the kind of lighting that would simply shine light on the car itself, so that it would be highly visible, as a car. And the cars could use that under-car lighting that is popular now. Maybe a lighting designer could design a cool-looking police car that would be lit up at all the right points, but not be flashing brightly directly at oncoming drivers. You could have the interior lit up as well.

Preferably, the lights would be pointed downward, lighting up the road, the car itself, and perhaps the policeman's path as he walks toward the other vehicle, which is exactly the information needed by a driver to avoid a collision.

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