1. The number of traffic casualties
Dealing with road traffic is a daily part of life for almost all members of society. As a result, traffic safety is an ever-present issue whose importance increases in line with increases in traffic density.
According to a study by the road safety campaign “Get Off Gas”, when someone dies in a traffic collision, an average of 113 other people – family members, friends, acquaintances and emergency services personnel – are affected directly and sometimes permanently.1
Despite the increase in road traffic, the number of deaths from traffic collisions has decreased slightly, as a result of improvements in the road infrastructure, vehicle technology and trauma care. However, a consequence of the reduced number of deaths has been an increase in the number of people who are severely injured. Such people may not always fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of such trauma and may have to live with the long-term consequences of the collision. Currently, in Germany alone, there are about 2.5 million people directly or indirectly affected by traumatic brain injury2.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)3, 1.24 million people die on the roads of the world annually. Half of them are pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists. A further 20 to 50 million people are injured in traffic collisions.
In Germany, about 270,000 people suffer craniocerebral trauma every year. Around a third (90,000) of these cases result from traffic collisions. Most (90.9%) cases are minor; 3.9% are moderate and the remaining 5.2% are severe craniocerebral trauma, resulting in more than 7,700 deaths annually.4
With an annual death toll of around 25,300 on the roads of Europe in 2017, some 135,000 serious injuries and the social costs of medical care, rehabilitation and lost work amounting to about €120 billion a year, the EU has set itself the target of reducing road deaths between 2010 and 2020 to around 16,000.5 Since 2007, the German Road Safety Council (DVR) has based its work on traffic safety on a “Vision Zero”, a target which also includes seriously injured people.6
However, given the fact that the number of deaths and serious injuries is only declining slightly, it is questionable as to whether enough measures are being taken to improve traffic safety.7
Adopting and achieving the EU’s objective requires the taking of every opportunity to improve traffic safety.
2. The Front Brake Light – an easily implementable contribution to more traffic safety
Given the complex triangular relationship between human, vehicle and environmental factors, advances in traffic safety will always have to encompass a variety of innovations.
One of these innovations could be the Front Brake Light, a forward-facing lighting device that, when the foot brake is applied, illuminates simultaneously with the rear brake lights and tells on-coming road users that the driver has applied the brake.
As early as 1971, a initial study was undertaken in the US on the usefulness of such a Front Brake Light. A number of private vehicles were equipped with it for about a month. Afterwards, the participants were asked about their experience of using it and rated its value. At the same time, a control group with no experience of using it was asked to evaluate the concept. Both groups considered the Front Brake Light to be useful in communicating with other drivers and pedestrians. Particular emphasis was placed on the importance of such a device under conditions of poor ambient lighting (e.g. during the night) as well as the conscious use of communicating behavioral intentions.8
Building on this research, a more extensive longitudinal field test was carried out at Berlin-Tegel Airport in 2017, in which both the drivers of the vehicles equipped with a Front Brake Light and other road users who had come into contact with the equipped vehicles were questioned. The results of this research also showed wide support and recognition for the concept.
(Field study) Table 12. Open comments: Examples of positive comments broad support and recognition for the concept. (the number of comments is given in parentheses) 9
Anticipation and reaction (13)
“You can see quicker that the vehicle is braking”
“You can respond more quickly to the braking of other road users.”
General positive comments (10)
“That was very good.“
“Good. I expect it to be even more positive in winter.”
“The version currently used on vehicles does not dazzle, but is very clearly visible.“
Feeling of safety (7)
“As a road user, you feel safer.”
“Safety has increased.“
“Improved communication among road users.”
“The flow of traffic has improved.”
“Colour is noticeable.”
“The Front Brake Light helped with parking”
“Vehicles of other companies should also be equipped.”
“You have to get used to it.“
Previously, in a laboratory study, Petzoldt, Schleinitz and Banse10 had also highlighted the information asymmetry between motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians. Whilst drivers have information such as the direction and body language of pedestrians to help understand their intentions on the road, pedestrians, at least when facing oncoming traffic, have few indications as to the intended behavior of drivers. For example, the absence of brake lights on the front of vehicles makes it harder for pedestrians to perceive braking. This problem is of particular importance when either using pedestrian crossings or crossing side roads in front of turning vehicles; situations in which collisions commonly occur.
Clearly, therefore, the Front Brake Light should be recognized as an additional, cost- effective and easily implementable measure to reduce traffic collisions, not least in terms of reducing the actual risk to pedestrians.
However, in common with other measures to improve traffic safety, it must be evaluated fully to determine its potential effectiveness.
II. Areas of application and potential benefits
III. Technical concept
IV. Framework of the objectives of the EU
V. Legal framework of an introduction
Possible applications of
front brake light in real traffic*