The Oh Shit Light©

Rear End CollisionThis was originally posted on meshack.com on 5/20/2008.

So I took a nice little drive of about 1100 miles to Reno, Nevada recently. I’ve never minded long drives, but people keep asking me how I keep from going stir crazy on trips like that. I tell them, “you load up your iPod, hit cruise control, put your feet up on the dash and your head back in your hands, and come up with brilliant ideas like: the Oh Shit Light©.”

The idea for the Oh Shit Light© actually came to me years ago. Later I met someone who had amazingly come up with a very similar idea; showing, I suppose, that great minds do indeed think alike. She had a slightly different take on how to implement the Oh Shit Light©, but it suffered from one fundamental flaw; it was whack! A purple light would never work. I’m convinced that, despite her insistence otherwise, she knows my implementation was superior. Be that as it may, she made a valuable contribution; I will remember her fondly when I am spending the millions reaped from my ingenious idea.

The problem:

Rear-end collisions account for a full 30% of all crashes in the United States and according to this paper from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, “driver inattention plays a significant causal role in rear-end collisions.”

It can also be difficult to estimate how hard the car in front of you is braking. Things like body-roll, a clear line of sight to traffic patterns and ground-coverage estimates are the only clues you might have in a braking situation. If you were following an SUV with tinted windows, you might have no line of sight at all. And how many times have you been following a car that braked moderately, which then braked hard a moment later causing you to have to recalculate your own braking; the time-delay of which could have caused a rear-end collision?

It seems clear that the traditional brake light system is inadequate and that a better braking indicator is needed. Something that grabs drivers’ attentions more readily and something that gives a better visual indicator of drivers’ braking patterns. Enter the Oh Shit Light©.

The solution:

The Oh Shit Light© is a simple light indicator, meant to be a companion to or a replacement of the high-mounted or 3rd brake light that is found on just about every car on the road today. It would look like an elongated version of the high-mounted brake light. At the center, the brake light functions as normal, but to either side of this central brake light is a panel of LEDs that light up according to how much pressure is applied to the brakes. So when a light brake pressure is applied, only a few lights in this panel light up, but when extreme brake pressure is applied, the whole panel would light up.

Oh Shit Light diagram 1
Light Braking
Oh Shit Light diagram 2
Moderate Braking
Oh Shit Light diagram 3
Oh Shit!

Note that the final set of lights that indicate the hardest braking are shaped distinctly from the others. This is an additional visual indicator that the Oh Shit threshold has been reached and is useful in cases where the whole light panel can not be seen clearly. For example if it is night time.

I think the need for the Oh Shit Light© is clear. With rear-end collisions numbering in the millions, and with traffic congestion getting worse every year making these types of accidents more likely; ask yourself if you can afford NOT to have an Oh Shit Light©.

This idea has been brought to you by Meeshco, the ideas of yesterday making a better future for the history of today.