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Discussion Starter #1
In my head I invented a more effective brake light based on a red laser with a star field lens to spread the laser all over the cars behind you.

Somebody beat me to it and they call them laser "fog" lights or laser brake lights. I'm sure it varies by state or jurisdiction, but I think they are in a grey area of legality at the moment.

Lots of states forbid any kind of flashing lights except the hazard lights. But since this does not flash, maybe it is still legal. Certainly there are laws against shining a tight focus laser at pilots or drivers because they may be startled. The startling effect is probably what makes this illegal. Because of the star effect lens over the laser, the effective power of any individual spot of laser light is cut by a factor of ~100.

In real life I am an eye doctor, so I know about the risk of looking at or seeing a laser directly. This device would present zero risk to damage anybody's vision. But since there can be serious penalties for distracting another driver with a laser, I don't want to be the first one to find out in court how illegal it is.


 

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Brake light modulators seem to do an effective or at least as effective as possible of alerting the folks behind you that you are applying the brakes.

The person paying attention is not the one I'm worried about it the distracted driver that like above is looking at their cell phone, shaving, doing their markup, shooting drugs or cooking dinner while driving. No matter when you braked if fireworks shot out of you exhaust, sirens blared and water cannot spraying their car they not notice.
 

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I'm a private pilot and was once on a night training flight when somebody shined a laser on me, from well over a kilometer away. I wasn't worried all that much about my eyes, but it ruined my night vision for half a minute. Not funny.

These lasers may work OK during the day or in daytime foggy conditions, but I would be extremely careful at night.
 

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@Solarguy, I also wonder what may happen to traffic behind as you change breakover angle, for example; entering underground parking. Your downward angle could be enough to point the laser up directly in the field of view of someone behind you.
Reminds me of a witty sign I read about in an automotive supplier journal:

In a stamping plant there was a laser-guided 150 ton press, the laser was used for precisely locating the blank in the die.There was a warning sign explaining that permanent retina damage could occur if looking directly at the laser during the stamping operation. Underneath it was another smaller sign in Braille and the printed words: "Do not look at it a second time."
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think they are promoting these devices as fogs light that are aimed at the ground, precisely to avoid "shooting people in the eye with a laser" to avoid the legal grey area. However, with a lens that splits the 0.5 milliwatt beam into ~100 or more spots, there is zero chance of damaging anybody's retina unless it's the installer and they stare at a specific spot for 10 minutes. Even then, doubtful it would cause any permanent damage. The energy density per square centimeter is just too low.

I would intentionally mount the device as a brake light that shines directly at the cars behind me.
 

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If a brake light modulator does not attract their attention nothing will. I'd be nervous about irritating other motorists with even a speckled laser in their eye, and that red line on the ground is an absolute waste of time. If your brake light is unnoticed, what good is a red line on the ground? The advertiser obviously realised that he could not advertise pointing the beam directly at the driver behind.
I put a number plate surround on my bike with an LED tail and brake light strip for better rear visibility.
 

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No doubt there are some people who won't pay attention or see you no matter what. But the effectiveness of a brake light modulator depends a LOT on the light to which it is connected.

I tried a brake modulator on my stock 2015 650 brake light / bulb. Complete waste of time, as the stock bulb just was not bright enough, nor did it cycle fast enough. Upgrading to an LED bulb helped, but still not something I would consider eye-catching.

I disconnected the modulator from the stock brake and added it to a bright aux brake light. HUGE difference.

I perhaps maybe kinda have gone a teeny tiny itsy bit too far with 2 x 14" LED aux brake lights mounted high on my top case. And just for kicks, since it's legal in my state (IL), I hacked together two bright blue / red aux brake lights (not modulated...that would be illegal). Based purely on observing others' reactions on the road, the blue lights make a notably bigger difference than the aux brake light with modulator.

 

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Discussion Starter #10
That's what I am shooting for, maximum legal conspicuity. The previous owner added a secondary led flasher brake light, which is not bad, but not super bright either. What brand is your 2" x 14" aux brake light??

thx.
 

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Here's what I mounted to my top case:


I like the large surface area, and they're quite bright, though they're a little directional for my tastes. But I haven't seen them in action under normal driving / riding conditions and distances-- just stepping back a bit from the parked bike. My meathead and fathead brothers say they look great.

For absolute maximum brightness and true, deep red, nothing I've seen compares to the Whelen LIN3. Loads of law enforcement and emergency services across the country use various Whelen products, including the LIN3s. They're expensive new, but pop up used on eBay regularly. Doesn't seem to matter if they're old and beat up -- these things are incredibly well built and durable. For some reason, eBay sellers often refer to the color with just a letter, 'R' (if at all). There's also Amber and Blue.

Another option is the Whelen TIR3, which are similar to the LIN3 but with a different, slightly more directional lens. I think either will work well as a brake light, but my preference would be the LIN3.

My meathead brother has 3x LIN3s. Two mounted wide-ish on a dimmer as running / brake lights, with a third in the middle. On braking, I think the middle comes on solid while the outer two are flash. They are incredibly bright. Sometimes, I think, even too bright.

Visually registering with drivers that we exist helps. But it also helps for drivers to recognize what we are - a motorcyclist. Beyond that, it just so happens my blue lights, and the red Whelen LIN3s my brother uses, often code to other drivers as 'cop'. To me, that's a bonus, and a good thing.
 

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The previous owner of my bike was one who liked being seen from space when he hit the brakes. There were lights cobbled all over the back of the bike, and it made the garage light up like a strip club when the brakes were depressed. I found it as irritating as the projector headlights that people use that blind oncoming traffic. I removed the whole mess. If people don't see your brakes lights they are not paying attention, no amount of weird light effects are going to fix that.
 

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If people don't see your brakes lights they are not paying attention, no amount of weird light effects are going to fix that.
True to a degree, and it's a response I see often. But it essentially assumes a binary condition: drivers will see your brake light (no matter how dim or pathetic, like the stock light '15 650), or not. However, the world, in this context, is not binary. My standard response (pulled from another thread that expands the discussin a bit)...

True enough. With a completely tuned out driver, no attempt at conspicuity -- visual or aural -- will make a difference.

Conspicuity is not a panacea: hence, the criticality of all the other approaches already mentioned for how to mitigate risk and respond as effectively as possible before and when dangerous situations arise.

That said, there's a broad spectrum of driver distraction and decision-making: not just the completely tuned out driver, but also many who are temporarily and lightly distracted, others moderately so, some prone to minor poor decisions, others inclined to make outright terrible decisions.

And while I don't have any specific research to note, I will say my anecdotal experience absolutely indicates conspicuity -- primarily visual, but also on occasion aural -- is effective at drawing the attention of and / or positively affecting the decisions and behavior of a wide variety of drivers along the spectrum.

And that, to me, is worth the efforts at conspicuity -- gear, lights, LOUD horn, brake flashers, anti-SMIDSY maneuvers, lane positioning, etc. -- even if it won't make a difference to a very small number of drivers deep on the dumb-ass side of the spectrum.
 

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Not a fan of video game brake lights. It is one thing to rapidly tap your brakes or activate your flashers when encountering suddenly slowing traffic or an obstacle in the right of way, but 4000 lumen and/or pulsating brake lights when they activate every application every time in normal braking situations is overkill and distracting in and of itself, IMHO. Attention gets fixated on the over bright, pulsing brake lights and may result in not enough attention paid to other elements; pedestrian & bicycle traffic or turn signals, for example.
Reverse the situation: "Maybe that motorcyclist in front of me is paranoid because he/she thinks I won't see them slowing down. I better follow them with my high beams on so that they know that I am doing everything I can to be sure I see them."
Like many 'Troopers, I ride AGATT including a hi vis and reflective-trimmed jacket. I have replaced my turn signals with led bulbs (stock tail/brake light is led), in part because their rise time from off to full bright is much faster than incandescents and therefore observed a tenth of a second or so sooner. At 62mph/100kmh that can mean ~9ft more room to stop There is conspicuity and there is obnoxiousness.
 

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@Solarguy: I suspect that to the rider looking in the mirror the star pattern will look like the pattern is projected onto the car behind. To the driver the "star pattern" will still look to a driver behind as a point source same as a sparkly laser shooting into their eyes. The only way it could possibly benefit visibility in braking is if the star pattern is projected onto a screen that the driver can see.

It isn't going to have the effect you are hoping for.

..Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Overpsych, your point is a valid one. Too much fixation can turn into running over the thing we are fixated on. But this is a question of degree, not yes or no. Perhaps you are already over that line with High-vis and retro reflective products. I doubt it, but it's possible. So, I continue to look for evidence and studies.

29% of all crashes involve getting rear ended. And the NHTSA has known for more than a decade that flashing is better than solid on, and brighter is better than dimmer. But the research is done and/or published at a glacial pace. There are a number of useful studies on their website: Rear signaling | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

I continue to study the data to determine how much is too much.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
A relevant quote from their "eye drawing" study:

Results generally support Configuration 2 (simultaneous flashing and increased brightness) as most effective in drawing the participants eyes back to the forward view. In all, 69 percent of participants noticed the lighting on at least one occasion when 100 A 0% B 25% BC 50% C 69% B 25% Chi Square (4) = 24.25, p< 0.001 80 60 40 20 0 Percent (9) Baseline (1) Incandescent TCL (3) Simultaneous Flash (No Increase) (7) Outboard Simultaneous Flash, CHMSL Alt (2) Simultaneous Flash (Increased Brightness) Percent of Drivers Who Were Observed to Look-Up in Response to the Lights During Any of the Presentations (n=80, 16 per configuration) 3 NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Research 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590 simultaneous flashing and increased brightness were combined. This compares to 0 percent for the baseline configuration, suggesting that current rear lighting is much less effective in drawing the participants eyes back to the forward view. These results are for the case in which bright daylight floods the lead vehicle and the participant is involved in an in-car task requiring visual and cognitive load, a task that could be considered typical of more complex in-car tasks. Flashing alone (without increased brightness) demonstrated a modest improvement in eye drawing; however, this configuration is far less effective than flashing with increased brightness insofar as the testing performed in the current study is concerned.
 

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@Motorpsch -- Good points all around and agreed, there is such a thing as Too Much. Fortunately, there's a LOT of middle ground between blindingly bright / Too Much and pathetically dim stock brake light.

That middle ground allows one to avoid blindingly bright brake lights, while still having reasonable conspicuity measure in place, for example: my brake flasher is configure to flash one moderately bright aux brake light just a few times, for very short duration, under regular braking...but more, faster flashes for a longer duration under hard braking (when I'm more interested in grabbing attention at the potential expense of other concerns like turn signals, etc.).

Similar reasons to yours drive me to use low beams during the day. While high beams may increase the chances of others seeing me, it also creates glare that makes it harder to gauge my distance, speed, turn signals, etc...none of which I want under normal riding conditions.

I like your perspective on the LED bulbs!

Your comments have me thinking of my eventual goal for my aux yellow conspicuity / fog lights. Currently, they're dimmed to ~30% 24/7 to avoid blasting retinas at night. One of these days, I'll install a switch so I can toggle between two brightness levels -- high intensity for daytime, lower intensity for night.

I might be able to do something similar for my next iteration of aux brake lights. Bright, full intensity helps a lot during daylight hours, and lower intensity via dimmer would prevent going too far at night. Might have to give that one more thought to see if I can sort out a reasonable solution for my next iteration (since I like dorking around with this kind of stuff).
 

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While driving on a curved dark lonely road one night I came face to face with a vehicle on my side of the road, headlights on full and driving lights as well.
It was a escort driver escorting a following wide load. It was only when he had gone that I could see the oncoming wide load, because his lights were blinding and disorientating. Rather than feeling co-operative I felt resentful.
 
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