Save a Life: Turn off the Flash

Spring seems to come earlier and earlier each year, and with it comes the increase in bike traffic. There is a lot of good that comes from bike riding. People get more exercise, less fossil fuels get used, there are good reasons to ride a bike. Bikers also deal with a lot of dangers. Most cities have insufficient bike lanes, and drivers are not taught how to handle bikers on the road. As such, there is a need for security measures to prevent fatalities and accidents. One of these methods is the use of a light to make yourself more visible to drivers.

Most of these lights have two settings – solid and flash.

In most cases people only consider their own personal safety, but there is one major problem with that. You see, those flashing light settings can be a trigger for photosensitive seizures.

When we think of seizures, we think of a patient flailing on a hospital bed while a nurse holds them and some doctor’s calls out for meds. It’s a sign of something serious going on but quickly fixed right? Wrong. The truth of the matter is that seizures can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. Many can and will result in traumatic brain injuries which can cause various levels of long term impact. Seizures are serious. And yet, every spring it is a danger faced by many people when the flashing lights come out, with no way of letting people know that they are putting someone’s life in serious danger.

But What About the Biker’s Safety

I get it. It seems like a clashing of safety trading biker fatality for seizure fatality, but actually that is not the case.

The idea that the flashing light makes bikers safer is based on the fact that flashing lights are more noticeable. They are unusual and so they draw the eye making it more likely that the driver will notice you. While this is true, so is the fact that the flashing light makes it difficult to judge distance. The driver has a difficult time determining exactly where you are in relation to their car. A solid light is still visible and makes it easier to judge distance. In a situation where it is dark enough for a biker not to be visible, a light stands out quite a bit on its own.

The studies show that the flashing light, if it shows any improvement of safety, does so only by something like 1%. You are trading someone’s life and safety, for a possible 1%.

I favor creating more efficient and safer bike lanes. I support creating more awareness of bike safety as well as teaching drivers how to share the road. I am not in favor of endangering needlessly the lives of epileptics and other people at risk of seizures.

We can really share the road. Help save lives and turn OFF the flashing light and use a steady beam instead.

Save a Life: Turn off the Flash

2 thoughts on “Save a Life: Turn off the Flash

  1. 1

    I also think that the possible 1% comes from the fact that they’re rare. To me as a driver they signal “attention, danger”. If people keep using them for general purpose they will “wean” people off the effect which might in turn increase danger in other situations.
    During winter I equipped the kids’ backpacks with some lights. They were put on “steady” and they provided good visibility even in fog and darkness.

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