Hazard lights – which serve as the only available warning beacon for disabled vehicles – were invented in 1951 and have not changed since. That’s seventy years without innovation, and studies show the rate of deaths and injuries is getting worse every year.
Driver behavior is part of the problem. But the single greatest reason for these tragedies is our reliance on last-century equipment that does not effectively communicate with other drivers and vehicles.
Emergency Safety Solutions (ESS) is working to eliminate disabled vehicle crashes with its new intelligent emergency communications feature for stationary, distressed vehicles called the “Hazard Enhanced Location Protocol,” or H.E.L.P.® for short.
The regulatory compliant H.E.L.P. solution combines onboard intelligence to drive two forms of highly effective communication to make your disabled vehicle more visible:
1) H.E.L.P.® Lighting Alerts in the form of highly conspicuous emergency-based lighting output, and
2) H.E.L.P.® Digital Alerts sent to oncoming vehicles via GPS-based mapping applications
These features deliver advanced warning to oncoming traffic -- giving approaching drivers minutes, not just milliseconds, to more safely respond to the disabled vehicle.
NFL Legend and ESS Spokesperson Joe Theismann with an important message about the dangers we all face when our vehicle becomes disabled. Hazard lights haven't changed since their introduction 70 years ago and are woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting stranded drivers on our roadways. But the good news is H.E.L.P. is on the way.
The effectiveness of visual clarity is driven by an optimized combination of flash rate, light volume, color and intensity.
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) applies cutting-edge scientific methods to design, refine and evaluate solutions to complex transportation challenges. The organization supports automakers, automotive suppliers and policymakers to assess and improve the effectiveness of safety systems by quantifying performance benefits, resilience and unintended consequences.
VTTI Phase 1 Study (2021) – Assessed dozens of highly conspicuous lighting combinations to establish an optimal range of flash attributes.
The study found:
4Hz to 6Hz flash frequencies are significantly more attention-grabbing and communicate a more appropriate sense of urgency than standard hazard flashers.
This frequency range is the “sweet spot” for balancing urgent communications against discomfort and annoyance.
VTTI Phase 2 On-road Study (spring 2022) – Examined oncoming driver response to a disabled vehicle with hazard lamps flashing at 5Hz versus the standard hazard flash rate.
Significant driver response to H.E.L.P.TM Lighting Alerts included:
Drivers Slow Down – Oncoming drivers decelerated at a greater rate and at a substantially further distance away than drivers approaching the same test vehicle with normal hazard lights.
Drivers Move Over – Oncoming drivers changed lanes, typically moving a full lane away from the “disabled” test vehicle at observed distances of up to 360 meters, or nearly four football fields away.
Drivers Respond Earlier – Most approaching drivers decelerated and moved over a lane before crossing the farthest observation checkpoint of 360 meters, which translated to more than 12 seconds of observed advance warning / reaction time.
Dozens of empirical Human Factors studies conclude that driver perception improves with higher emergency hazard light flash rates. For example, a recent study at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that higher-frequency flash rates dramatically increase perception of urgency.
The graph displays flash frequency against three dimensions of visual clarity – discomfort glare, annoyance and urgency. This finding is reinforced by studies conducted by NASA’s Ames Research Center.
In addition to providing a long-range visible beacon to oncoming drivers, ESS H.E.L.P. also deploys a digital signal upon activation of the hazard lights.
That signal is detected by emergency information systems and retail navigation applications, alerting all other drivers who are running a navigation application that there is a hazard ahead.
This visual and digital alert system provides drivers with plenty of advanced warning to avoid disabled vehicles on the road ahead, and will safeguard the lives of those in the disabled vehicles.
The true cost of crashes involving disabled vehicles can be devastating. When these crashes lead to fatalities, they rob us of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, grandparents, friends and more.
Meet some of the people behind the statistics.