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Old 10-15-07, 04:17 PM   #1
mulchie
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studies on blinking lights?

I have heard that blinking lights are like moths plus flame to drunks. A person who is drunk sees one, wonders what it is, and drives right into it in his/her daze. Sort of like target fixation if anybody out here is from the Air Force. And rather like some other recent post in which a man was teaching his daughter to ride in a wide-open parking lot and she managed to hit the only upright thing in it! Oh, humans.
I am just wondering if there are studies on this.
I keep my DiNottes on high with a steady beam. Front and back. Day and night. The other day an older couple with two bikes on the back stopped beside me at a light, gave me a thumb's up and said "Great light! We could see you way back there."
That was nice.
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Old 10-15-07, 04:36 PM   #2
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Or kinda like how you'll see two cars parked right next to each other in an otherwise empty parking lot.

Myself, I prefer always on, day and night...somewhat due to this same hypothesis of drunk-driver target fixation that I read here.
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Old 10-15-07, 06:41 PM   #3
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It may have some merit. I've often heard that in emergency situations, the best way to avoid a collision is to look where to want to go, and you'll end up steering there. Now obviously, sober people can look in directions at things other than what is directly in front of them, and still travel in a straight line. I wouldn't be surprised at all if drunks lose this ability, and go wherever they happen to be looking. Thus, bright, attention catching blinkies may draw their gaze, and cause them to drive right into you.

I run steady night and day, front and back. This is mainly out of concern for others eyes, as blinkies can be blinding on dark streets. I'm personally not worried about the drunks hitting me.
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Old 10-15-07, 06:46 PM   #4
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Parking lot experiment: Rope off parking lot within close walking distance of home. Set two plastic poles 3' apart. Get two blinkies and mount them on ends of pole. * Drink. Put blinkies on solid and from 100' back ride as fast as you can between them. Then make them blink and repeat from * Try one blink one solid as the night progresses. Walk home.
Doh, of course its not a comparable experiment, but its more fun than talking about it.
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Old 10-16-07, 09:17 AM   #5
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Assuming here, not based on studies. My guess is that the "attractiveness" comes from the lights being noticeable. The blinking attracts the eye, and following the argument in the earlier post about looking where you want to go, the eye brings the car if the driver is impaired. Since I ride primarily for commuting and most of the time the darkest I ride in is dusk, I'll stick to being attractive to the eye by blinking. If I was riding later at night (less light) I would go with at least some, if not all, solid since it is easier to judge distance from a solid presence.
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Old 10-16-07, 09:32 AM   #6
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How does one gather information for this "study" ?

Do you ask the drunks after they drove into a police car if they were attracted to the blinking light?

Do you ask them when they are sober later? Are you in the car with them right before the accident?

I don't think there is a reliable way to find out. ????????
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Old 10-16-07, 10:38 AM   #7
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How does one gather information for this "study" ?

Do you ask the drunks after they drove into a police car if they were attracted to the blinking light?

Do you ask them when they are sober later? Are you in the car with them right before the accident?

I don't think there is a reliable way to find out. ????????

Just make up whatever you think might be true and post it on the Internet as "I read somewhere blah, blah, blah".
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Old 10-16-07, 10:43 AM   #8
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Personally I use blinking lights because that is what I see better while driving!! Havn't heard about the drunk driving thing!
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Old 10-16-07, 11:32 AM   #9
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hmmm... this getting me thinking that running a solid light may be better than blinking especially in very dark conditions. Attention grabbing versus distance perception>>>which is more important?
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Old 10-16-07, 12:06 PM   #10
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I heard this is why police cars now have the yellow arrow lights on the back, pointing
people to pass on the correct side.
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Old 10-16-07, 12:41 PM   #11
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hmmm... this getting me thinking that running a solid light may be better than blinking especially in very dark conditions. Attention grabbing versus distance perception>>>which is more important?
Even a tiny red light will easily be seen by a normal driver. A blinking light will only work better in the corner of your eye, where a tail light will be only if you're almost passed by a car. The blinking light will seriously mess up distance perception and positioning in a dark situation, since the "predictive" mechanisms in our visual system can't handle blinking lights at all well. A steady light is the only safe option. If you absolutely feel you need an obnoxious blinkie, get one IN ADDITION TO a steady light, and it has to be a steady light that is a lot brighter than the blinkie.
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Old 10-16-07, 01:21 PM   #12
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Blinking LEDs burn through batteries slower. I'm a bit of a cheapskate. The odds that there is any validity to this blinking vs steady thing are small. I'll continue to go with the blinkies.

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Old 10-16-07, 01:30 PM   #13
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The blinking light will seriously mess up distance perception and positioning in a dark situation, since the "predictive" mechanisms in our visual system can't handle blinking lights at all well.
And your evidence for this is? I've driven and ridden up behind cyclists using blinkies and have had not the slightest difficulty in working out our relative positions. The rider is perfectly easy to see and one judges their position vis-a-vis oneself simply by their size and other clues.

I've done a search for properly conducted experiments on the subject and found none, so far. If anyone has had more success, please let us know.
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Old 10-17-07, 05:00 AM   #14
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I know of no empirical evidence. Yet it makes basic sense to me and in my own experience, with my Mars 3.0 on blink folks (presumably sober) clipped pretty close. Now with my DiNotte on full the opposite happens. Cars often follow me a good long while (I am astounded) until they know it's safe to pass on windy roads or I wave them ahead. I now have my Mars on blink, but it's so dim in comparison I'm not sure folks can even see it.
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Old 10-17-07, 05:41 AM   #15
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Blinking LEDs burn through batteries slower. I'm a bit of a cheapskate.
With rechargeable batteries the difference in cost would be neglible (blinking vs. steady).

Cost factors aside, it's a nuisance: with my earlier battery-hog front halogen light, I knew I had to recharge after round trip commute. Easy. But with LEDs (my backup blinkie for example) there's no way I can keep track of how many dozens of hours it has been on. I recharge its batteries when it occurs to me, often far too soon.

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Old 10-17-07, 05:45 AM   #16
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A blinking light is definitely harder to judge distance with. I have doubts that it matters much in this case, but it is true (try hitting/catching a baseball while using a strobe light).

I think most of us who regularly ride in the dark wear brighter clothes and have other reflective materials. The blinkie is the attention getter, the others should suffice for distance perception if anything extra is needed. Blinkie vs solid may matter more when dealing with greater speed differences between car and bike than I am used to. Most anywhere I ride has cars that should be going within 30 mph (usually less) of my speed, if it got to double that or more I might change my tune.

Moths to a flame? I can see that. not sure how ultimately true it is, but I can see it being the case. I still run blinkie mode as it helps me notice cyclists much better and sooner than some I have seen with solid lights. they blend into traffic too well, especially the cheaper ~$10 variety.
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Old 10-17-07, 06:51 AM   #17
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For some reason blinking taillights are outlawed in Germany. Only solid are permitted.
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Old 10-17-07, 07:11 AM   #18
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Just make up whatever you think might be true and post it on the Internet as "I read somewhere blah, blah, blah".


Or..

I read it on the internet so it must be true.
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Old 10-17-07, 09:16 AM   #19
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Study suggestion: Find a stretch of road near a bar. Place highway cones on a shoulder, but near the traffic lane. Some cones have blinkies. Come back the next day and compare cones knocked over with those left standing. You might even try it with actual bicycles, although that might be a traffic hazard/illegal. People might knock cones over on purpose.
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Old 10-17-07, 11:13 AM   #20
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With rechargeable batteries the difference in cost would be neglible (blinking vs. steady).
Except that the rechargeables cost significantly more to begin with. With my rear blinkies, and commuting 50% of my work days, I'm still on the same set of batteries I started with last year.

I don't have enough experience with rechargeable AA and AAA batteries to have a feel for the number of recharges they're good for, but the sealed lead acid that I use for my front light only lasted a year.

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Old 10-17-07, 12:13 PM   #21
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Well doing a study on "target fixation" of blinky lights would be tricky.

It is known though that a moving object is much easier to see than a stationary one. Most critters when they are hiding "freeze" to take advantage of this.

It has always seemed to me that blinky lights are more visible than solid ones and it squares with the above.

However, it has been suggested that it is harder for drivers to know just what your position is from a blinky light. They have problems tracking it. A way to get around this is to have two rear lights, one solid and one blinky or a blinky and a large reflector.

As for constant lights being less visible, I do have experience with this. I was riding with an 80 watt equivilent HID light and a guy in an SUV veered into my lane and ran smack dab into me (he was doing this in preparation for turning into a parking lot). He told the officer that I "had come out of nowhere". And here I had the biggest headlight known to man on my bike.

I later have read that ultramarathoners tend to ride with both a solid and a blinky light both fore and aft at night.

However, I have ridden many miles predawn. I have found that the early morning drivers tend to be more careful and more courteous than the Sunday morning drivers. I get cursed by drivers about once every day by Sunday drivers and it happens about once every 500 early mornings. But there is always the statistical outlier out there to get you.
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Old 10-19-07, 06:43 AM   #22
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Except that the rechargeables cost significantly more to begin with. With my rear blinkies, and commuting 50% of my work days, I'm still on the same set of batteries I started with last year.

I don't have enough experience with rechargeable AA and AAA batteries to have a feel for the number of recharges they're good for, but the sealed lead acid that I use for my front light only lasted a year.

Speedo
Today's nimh's and lithium ion rechargeables are a FAR cry from the sla's and nicad's of yesteryear. You can expect a minimum of 500 charges and perhaps over 1000. It's beyond economical.....they pay for themselves several times over.
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Old 10-19-07, 06:45 AM   #23
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I'm thinking it has more to do with the proximity to the side of the roadway if there is any connection with drunks and blinking lights on a bike. Otherwise wouldn't all of the flashing light poles (like ones used to signify a changing light at a big intersection) would be down all the time? Or any other type of flashing/blinking light on anything???
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Old 10-20-07, 06:20 AM   #24
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Today's nimh's and lithium ion rechargeables are a FAR cry from the sla's and nicad's of yesteryear. You can expect a minimum of 500 charges and perhaps over 1000. It's beyond economical.....they pay for themselves several times over.
I don't know for certain how new they are, but they are new to me. Duracell has a new line of rechargeables. Battery color is green. mA ratings vary - I have purchased a set of 2650 mA AA's to power my head and tail lights and my GPS.

The neat feature of these cells is that, using Duracell's charger, they recharge in a mere 15 minutes. Recharge time was always one of my complaints with most rechargeables. If they ran out on you, you were out of business unless you kept a supply of non-rechargeables on hand. Of course, for a cyclist, carrying spare batteries on a ride is like carrying rocks, and, if you have to keep buying non-rechargeables to back up your rechargeables, then, you degrade the cost savings that supposedly justify the extra initial expense of the rechargeables.

In summary, if you haven't tried them, pick up a set of these new batteries. I don't know the mA rating of regular AA cells, but these perform at least as well if not better, and, seeing as how you can fully recharge them while you pump up your tires, they are hard to beat.

Caruso -- Oh, and I'm a steady on guy. I think blinking anything only connotes an overly "tight" attitude for safety. I don't seek special treatment out on the road because I'm a bike. I just want to be treated like anyone else. I ride a lot at night - some well-lighted roads, some pitch black. Instead of worrying about my light blinking or not, I keep an eye on my helmet-mirror and observe cars as they approach. You can tell those who acknowledge your presence by easing left to overtake you. You can start praying (or take other evasive action) when someone doesn't see you or is out to make a statement by buzzing you.

IMO, this is true for all drivers. As for drunks, I doubt the margin of safety is affected much by blinking or not. They will plow through houses, other cars, trains, whatever. I am convinced that, if there were some drug or other means by which to prompt the inebriated to keep on breathing, they would be less inclined to hurt themselves and others. The real killer (IMO) regarding alcohol impairment isn't so much the affect it has on our judgment, but the depressive affect it has on the involuntary nervous system. Your brain forgets to tell your lungs to keep breathing at a rate sufficient to sustain consciousness, and, so, in the face of any manner of life threatening situations, the body just nods off.

Now, there ain't nothin' scientific about any of the above, so, feel free to shoot it full of holes if you wish (but, do try those batteries).

Caruso

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Old 10-20-07, 04:12 PM   #25
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Yet it makes basic sense to me and in my own experience, with my Mars 3.0 on blink folks (presumably sober) clipped pretty close. Now with my DiNotte on full the opposite happens.
Yes, this makes perfect sense! Essentially, you've compared a little Mars blinkie to the mother of all LED tailights (i.e. the Dinotte). I would suggest that even with the Dinotte in the blinking mode, cars will still give you a wide berth simply because the Dinotte puts out so much light.
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