Bailey Warren – 2018 Essay Winner

Bailey Warren

Visibility Control

When asking about safety features in a car, regarding inclement weather, one usually thinks about things such as all-wheel drive, or all season tires. These features make the car more capable of driving in adverse weather conditions. What if though, there was a feature that was not necessarily to improve the car’s ability, but to improve the driver’s ability to drive safely in these conditions? Some features like this do already exist. Stability and traction control, for example, monitor motion on the road, such as slipping or sideways movement. Another major factor that could be improved though, is a driver’s visibility.

Though vehicles have some features helping visibility, such as enhanced lighting, there are other steps that could be taken to elevate these features. Building from the idea of stability and traction control, one could create visibility control. Like stability control, this idea would use sensors as a measuring device. Instead of measuring the amount of side to side movement though, it would measure the level of visibility at a predetermined distance ahead of the car as it drives. This predetermined distance would be based on data measuring average driving reaction time. According to the Police Radar Information Center and National Safety Council (NCS), the average driver reaction break time is 2.3 seconds, suggesting that cars keep 3 second distance between each other (copradar.com). In bad weather, one may suggest slightly more than this. This leads to the preanalytical suggestion that the sensors should begin measuring visibility four to five seconds in advance. If a certain measurement of low visibility occurs, the car would then suggest a limit of speed at which the car should not pass. If this speed is reached, the car would give a warning signal indicating that there is a higher threat driving at that speed with such visibility. Like traction control, the driver would also have the ability to turn a feature on or off, which limits the speed at which the car will go within a certain visibility. According to the United States Department of Transportation, when driving in rainy conditions, speed should be reduced by one third, and by one half when driving in snowy conditions. Building off this information, the sensors could use the visibility measurement obtained to categorize the measurement into different levels of threat. For example, if the threat level is moderate, suggesting a normal to heavy rain, the car would then suggest or enforce the driver to reduce their speed by one third. For a threat level categorized as high, the car would then inevitably suggest that the driver reduce their speed by one half.

This invention would undoubtedly improve driver’s reaction time in inclement weather. Driving in adverse weather or limited visibility situations means a reduced ability to observe ones surroundings. Reducing the vehicles speed allows the driver more time to process the incoming roadway and any obstructions that may occur. This therefore brings reaction time closer to what it would be in decent weather conditions. Better visibility, slower driving, and greater reaction times are key variables that go hand in hand when considering roadway safety. Being able to improve all three of these variables would make our roads abundantly safer.

Work Cited:

“CMV Driving Tips – Too Fast for Conditions.” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, United States Department of Transportation, 11 Feb. 2015, www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-too-fast-conditions.

Sawicki, Donald S. Braking Factors, Police Radar Information Center, 2017, copradar.com/redlight/factors/.