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Strobes, when is it enough?

Brian Bell

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Brian, that is a nice light display and not as over the top as some I see. I am one that subscribes to the less is more theory, never had that many strobes on my trucks and always had them switched in zones so I could turn off the lights that were not really needed.


Funny I saw this today, I was driving thru a accident scene this morning in Oklahoma and the red/blue strobes, while attention grabbing, were so intense that I could not see. So imagine if it has that effect on a conscientious professional what will it do to the average motorist?


By the way, I love that square body Chevy, wish I still had mine. Had a 78 and 86, really miss them.

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I agree that 'less is more" for sure.  Back last year I had an eye problem and since then, if I come up on an accident the local sheriffs cars and suv have so many flashing red and blue lights that it is just about impossible to see the officer attempting to handle traffic.  More older drivers in Florida have vision problems than most other states.  I would suggest that some lights should be shut off while on scene to prevent folks from focusing on the lights.  Think about the interstate signs that get hit when there is plenty of space to miss it.  If you focus on it, you will hit it.  Tow trucks are not exempt from the focus and hit reaction.  My 2 cents.


The towers and others are running empty all over the place with their entire light display on.  For the life of me, I can't figure why.  Loaded. .  maybe.  Unloaded.. makes no sense at all.  AAA driver told me that AAA suggested it as a safety measure.  Cable tv, fuel trucks, equipment haulers must have thought it was cool.  Go figure.

Edited by Flagfixer
Forgot my other gripe
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  • 3 months later...

The, "Moth to the Flame Effect" is real. People, especially the elderly, drive where they look or where their attention is drawn to. It's a proven fact and the study was published in Tow Times some years back. Aside from that, it bewilders me that responding agencies are either ignorant to the intent or just ignore the bright/dim features on new light bars. The DIM setting is meant to be used at night so as not to blind oncoming traffic. The BRIGHT setting is for daytime use to overcome ambient, daytime brightness. 


"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, Today is

a Gift, That is why they call it the Present"...unknown


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Guys, yesterday, under a different heading of, November's Safety Topic, I responded to that similar topic by respectfully disagreeing that us humanoids are NOT drawn to bright lights like a, "Moth to a Flame", or, "Phototaxis", as there is NO scientific research or proof that that occurs as described in the UK's, Loughborough University, "The Loughborough Study". 


Perhaps, "Target Fixation", is a better choice to describe emergency lighting? The Loughborough Study stated, "... that the faster the flash, the greater the sense of urgency that was interpreted by the receiver, called, "Phototaxis". — Phototaxis is the scientific term for the condition commonly referred to as the, "Moth to the flame", effect ... which has been widely spread throughout the emergency services. 


The authors of, "The Loughborough Study",  were UNABLE to prove supporting scientific research. 


I don't know what article was read in Tow Times, but towers have this misconception mostly based on some wive's tale. Although, yes, I agree that too much lighting can be distracting, there are many other associated factors that could be caused for a crash, yet, it's an easy excuse to blame first responder lighting.


To that I'll ask this specific question for those of you who've approached an incident scene where bright lights were present. "Did you lose control of your vehicle, or, did you carefully make it past without crashing into the light source?" That one question alone has been asked in three of the four tow related lighting cases I've been associated with.


As FlagFixer comments, "If you focus on it you will hit it", that's, "Target Fixation", NOT moth to the flame. And, no, target fixation is NOT just a motorcycle rider's problem.  I provide my comments not to pick a fight or downgrade anyone's opinion on the issue, but in an effort to refute a Plaintiff's easy defense that tow trucks and first responder lighting is responsible for the ill-driven actions of motorists who fail to slow-down and move-over. I'm a firm believer that towers and first responders shouldn't roll onto their backs to accept total responsibility when there's no scientific evidence to prove their wrong-doing.


I invite you to read the Pdf, "Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative", Page 63, found at the following link:    https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ACYBGNTd1Lt5t0mq9CUF6qU56Guj7Xwuw:1572630482942&q=The+Loughborough+Study+Moth+to+flame&spell=1&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiDvrGKycnlAhVGsZ4KHVB6DKsQBQguKAA&cshid=1572630623553975&biw=1280&bih=591   


If you have proof to the otherwise, please let me know and I'll certainly re-evaluate my position.        R.

Edited by rreschran

Randall C. Resch

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I read the article and have some comments.

The reference to glare from different color flashes was interesting but, the flash rate was based on a low number or around 2 flashes per second.  If the emergency vehicle has 20 led lights flashing at 2 per second, then the total number of flashes could reach the 40 hertz flash rate which exceeds the upper limits of their recommendations.  In English too many Led lamps.

I do agree about the fixation being a problem.  And the total number of first responder units in a small space with up to maybe 100 flashes per second would cause most drivers to stare at them.


Thanks for the article.  I have passed it along to the Chief Engineer of a large fire department.  He was appreciative as well.



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  • 11 months later...

i never understood and still don't understand tow truck drivers with the lights on empty or loaded. i might give it to you if you have a flat bed and there is one on the wheel lift at night other than that i don't see it.  Maybe they want to be police or fire fighters i don't know. i see car haulers carrying cars and have no lights.  fire fighter for 20 years and never had a blue light on my car to go to a call but you see some guys with more lights than the police we call them wackers and i guess we have them in the towing industry. Sorry if i offended anyone.  I just don't get it  

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