Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Emergency light

Flashing blue light at intersections
  [vote for,

In times of Emergency, time is precious. Since a greater quantity of time is spent looking ahead instead of into rearview mirror, there should be a signal ahead which indicates there is an Emergency Vehicle approaching. It can be activated at the same time the Traffic Lights are automatically changed by/for approaching Emergency Vehicles. It would consist of a Blue Beacon mounted below the traffic light and alit only at times of Emergency.
thumbwax, Jun 04 2002

police chase http://www.halfbake...idea/police_20chase
here is where [pottedstu] & [StarChaser] suggested this in an annotation [krelnik, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Simple, elegant, economical, timely.   

1percent, Jun 04 2002

       you know the way trains used to collect the mail in little bags dangling from posts at stations along the route? yes? perhaps a speeding police car or fire engine could make contact with a passing traffic light signal via an outstretched arm/pole structure which sets off thumb's blue light at the next set of traffic lights. or does this sound complete c**p - answers on a postcard po@po1.HB
po, Jun 04 2002

       I have seen intersections with flashing white lights that seem to serve this purpose (at least the unlabeled lights flash when an emergency vehicle is approaching). Thus, aside from the color, I'd say this is baked (blue seems like a good choice, though).
supercat, Jun 05 2002

       I think I suggested this in an annotation...
StarChaser, Jun 05 2002

       I think I suggested this in an annotation...
jurist, Jun 05 2002

       Missed them both - the idea came to me after seeing some schmuck turning, then blocking a cop car (#5 of 6 heading East on Beverly to turn left on Fairfax in L.A. Thursday night) for no apparent reason other than to stop in the fast lane without any traffic blocking it in front or to the side, jabber away on cell phone mindlessly until I waved wildly at the schmuck then did a *3 Stooges Moe poking eyes out - look behind you* bit. She looked genuinely schocked to see the cop behind her. Odd, since he'd been flashing high beams at her and using microphone along with every light and sound effect known to policekind. Lucky he didn't kick her ass, as L.A. cops are prone to do when adrenaline kicks in. As far as I know, the cops were probably responding to an officer having an ingrown toenail - they're very protective of one another.
thumbwax, Jun 05 2002

       thumb, thats a killer. ours do it at lunchtime when they want to get back to their desk before their chips gets cold.
po, Jun 05 2002

       Some people would mistake it for a sale at Kmart.   

       Rather than mount a new light, how about having the alert trigger all the traffic lights to flash simultaneously, all three colors, arrows, everything?
waugsqueke, Jun 05 2002

       I thought about that too, but then everybody'd think the lights were f#(ked up and treat the lights like stop signs. I've seen that very thing play itself out as described. Key thing is, to just get people to pull over to the right or left and do it *Pronto*. Fire Trucks and Ambulances are the most important vehicles on the road. Ask anybody who has ever suffered loss of home, limb or loved one because of delay of either of those vehicles. In L.A., after 9-11 people pulled over to the side like there was no tomorrow, and appeared to be quite somber and respectful - within 6 months if not much, much sooner - there were Jackasses like the one I descibed in previous anno, though I'd say overall, drivers have a bit more respect than on 9-10.
thumbwax, Jun 05 2002

       thumbwax, your experience strikes a chord; what is it with some California drivers? (I'd say "female California drivers", here, but as I am also female and a California driver, I'd instantly ridicule myself by association.) They are superhuman, permanently excused from any compliance with laws of the road. They will plow through a red light -- because it would still be THEIR green light if the damn timers were fixed, and anyway, that guy in front of them didn't go on yellow when he should have gone -- and still insist, wide-eyed and furious, that they had the right of way.   

       I know exactly the kind of driver you mean. She'll park her Cabrio in the only westbound lane on a crowded street, turn on the hazards, and "just run out for a minute" because she forgot to pay her manicurist for the silk wrap. You can honk your horn at her, even stand outside her car and scream a blue streak at her, but the most she'll do is a wave an "apologetic" (self-excusing) hand at you, as if it's a wand she's using to make you disappear.   

       Laws don't apply to some people, and neither do emergencies. They're simply too important.
1percent, Jun 05 2002

       That, 1%, is why you have to carry a knife with you at all times. Next time this happens take a stab or two at the tires and then go around. Just make sure the tires are on the passanger side or else the driver might notice when they come back out.   

       Bliss, seen it too many times myself. One time the cops didn't get there in a timely manner. Both parties had already been taken to the hosp. before the cops got there, and I was the only witness that stayed long enough to talk to them. It was a lot of fun trying to explain that this car that an old woman was driving turned left and hit this other car that this large woman was driving and it caused blood to splatter and the light was green. I don't know what the final outcome of the police report was because I was late for work and had to go myself.
barnzenen, Jun 06 2002

       Thumbwax, I think you misspelled 'stop signs for everyone else' in "I thought about that too, but then everybody'd think the lights were f#(ked up and treat the lights like stop signs."   

       Around here, they're supposed to be treated as four-way stops...in practice, they're 'I get to go now!'
StarChaser, Jun 07 2002

       It's a great idea. Suppose we have 100,000 stoplight controlled intersections in Los Angeles County alone, and something like another 100,000 Police, Fire and Emergency Vehicles. Will it cost only $5,000 to update each stoplight with the required lamps and receivers, and another $1,000 to equip each emergency vehicle with senders? Who underwrites the $6 Billion improvement? Is this going to be a voter bond issue? As good an idea as this is, you have to wonder if there is any political practicality of seeing it come to fruition. (Unless the General Budget regularly shoehorns small increments into practice annually, without much public scrutiny.)
jurist, Jun 07 2002

       This I see as the perfect Halfbakery idea. Not some low-budget bullshit babbling about bluetooth enabled nanite custard genetically modifying cows to work as world flood dams.   

       This is a practical idea that would work...but is unlikely to be used because of the cost.
StarChaser, Jun 07 2002

       Los Angeles is such a Concrete Jungle even the LA River is paved...
L A currently has over 4,300 signalized intersections throughout 465 square miles.

Fiscal year 2001, City of L A spent 40.9¢ of Each Tax Dollar on Community Safety:
27.1¢ Crime Control
9. 3¢ Fire Control
1. 7¢ Public Assistance
2. 8¢ Other

12. 3¢ of Each Tax Dollar on Transportation
7.0¢ Street & Highway Transportation
4. 6¢ Traffic Control
0. 7¢ Other

The LAPD handles an estimated 3,700,000 calls for service per year. About 1,600,000 of these are not emergencies.
Total number of sworn officers: 9,168
Total number of civilian employees: 3,090
Who ride in, on or around cars, horses, motorcycles and bicycles

LAFD has 3,244 has uniformed personnel and 333 civilian support staff:
985 Firefighters (including 172 Paramedic trained personnel) are on duty at all times at 103 Neighborhood Fire Stations strategically located across the Department's 470 square-mile jurisdiction.
51 of those Stations are Single-Engine Houses (basic "put water on the fire" unit). The other 52 Stations are Task Force houses. A Task Force consists of three pieces of apparatus: an aerial truck, an engine company and a single "pump" apparatus. This arrangement allows for a single strong attack force that can deliver 10 emergency workers to any kind of incident with tools, ladders and hose.
Los Angeles City is protected by 65 ambulances that run out of LAFD fire stations. Of these, 52 are ALS or Advanced Life Support units staffed by a Firefighter/Lead Paramedic and a Firefighter/Paramedic. The Paramedics can administer appropriate drugs, establish intravenous lines, intubate, difibrilate and provide transportation to the nearest hospital.
The LAFD also has 13 BLS or Basic Life Support units that are staffed by Firefighters. These units provide advanced first aid plus transportation to the nearest facility.
In 2001, LAFD responded 637,773 times to calls.

There are also numerous additional Paramedic/Ambulance units which operate out of standalone locations.

The Department of Transportation currently has an estimated annual budget of $77 million and approximately 1,450 employees not including 500 part-time crossing guards. The Board of Transportation Commissioners has the authority to investigate all privately-owned public utilities in the City, establish regulations that govern the operation of such utilities, make recommendations regarding the public utility franchises and permits granted by the City, and is responsible for managing the Special Parking Revenue Fund. The Board also must approve all Department-initiated amendments to the Municipal Code.
There are 6,400 Street Miles of which 5,000 are Collector & Local - 1,400 are Major & Secondary. Scattered throughout, there are @40,000 Intersections and 160 Miles of Freeways to better serve the @ 3.5 Million Jackasses who aside from blocking the Emergency Vehicles are continually getting in the way of jurist and/or thumbwax.
thumbwax, Jun 07 2002

       I like this idea so much I'm awarding you my first-ever croissant.   

       I especially appreciate the blue-ness of the signal: in California, at least, only emergency vehicles are allowed to sport blue lights. (And those blue reflective things in the centers of streets tell you where the fire hydrants are located.)
kirby, Jun 07 2002

       All the effort that went into radar detectors for people obsessed with wanting to speed--could be adapted to detect police and emergency vehicles that need the right-of-way. This would use after-market gear already available, gives the driver an inside-the-car audible and/or other signal, and gives coverage anywhere, not just at intersections with signals. It would likely give the warning a bit in advance of the driver seeing or hearing the emergency vehicle, and maybe some directional info too--I don't have one of those radar things but I believe you learn to figure out where the police car is based on your surroundings.
entremanure, Jun 08 2002

       My mother lived in Japan in the early 60s and remembers fish-delivery trucks (in early morning only) being accorded the same privileges that emergency vehicles are here. I.e. flashing lights, and special horn, and other cars pulling to the side of the road. I guess it was considered a matter of the public good to get fresh sashimi to the inland masses. Somewhat off-topic, I know. I like the blue light idea, but wonder what new slang expressions it would give rise to: "That guy who crashed his motorcycle -- he looks like a real Blue Light Special."
magrak, Jun 09 2002

       Good idea, but I agree that it should be implemented by flashing existing lights. People would know what it meant, since there would presumably have to be a massive notification effort, in any case.   

       Still, it bothers me that we have to resign ourselves to drivers who can't pay enough attention to hear and see sirens. My favorite driving anecdote involves a friend who complained that he was ticketed after running a stop sign. He felt it wasn't fair, because he was distracted by the flashing red light.   

       (For unamerican readers, a flashing red light is equivalent to a stop sign, at least in every state I'm familiar with).
francois, Jun 09 2002

       With dimwits who think that the most important thing about the car is how many windows the radio can break, it is often hard to hear sirens. Even with a normal car, with the windows rolled up, it can be hard.   

       When you DO hear a siren, it can be hard to tell which direction it's coming from. I nearly creamed an ecnalubma once because I was coming up to an intersection where I had a green light, and just as I was about to go through, I heard a siren. I couldn't tell which direction, so I had to look around, and figured it out just in time to slide to a stop in a cloud of burned rubber, as the ecnalubma popped out of the side street I couldn't see down and stopped in front of me.
StarChaser, Jun 10 2002

       One more good reason for the Blue Lights, since dyslexics occasionally exhibit difficulty with written (and, apparently, aural) instructions.
jurist, Jun 10 2002

       [jusirt]: mI ton srue hawt uoy nema?
bristolz, Aug 25 2002

       last time I read Star's last anno, I thought an ecnalubma was an American car that I had never heard of before.   

       owh od sciexlsyd etg no ni het rwittn tanimaxe eborfe htire gnivird tset?
po, Aug 25 2002

       This is getting silly, so, why don't all emergency vehicle have transmitters that automatically change the lights to green in the direction they are travelling.
Micky Dread, Nov 18 2002

       / Mickey Dread / See signal changer, the idea above this one in this catagory.   

       Ab Bub Anu
bristolz, Apr 14 2003

       Cheaper solution: when an emergency vehicle uses their microwave horn to trigger a receiver in the traffic light... USE EXISTING LIGHTS that are already under control of the program. Instead of adding new blue lights, change two lines of code so that a HELD-GREEN state is accompanied by fast blinking YELLOW to signal extra caution. GREEN to GO with YELLOW for CAUTION. Sign over your Y2K budget to me and I'll modify all the code. No additional hardware required.
Prof Manitou, Apr 14 2003

       This is VERY baked. 30 years baked. 3M Opticon Traffic Signal Preemption System.   



       Lots of communities (especially VT, CT, NY, NJ, MA) attach red strobe lights to the preemption activated traffic signals. How it works:   

       Emergency vehicles are equipped with strobes that emit a distinct frequency. This signal is received by sensors at the traffic lights which cause the traffic light to give green to the direction of the oncoming emergency vehicle and Red to every other direction. At the same time, red strobes at the traffic signals start flashing. Sometimes the strobes are built into the red traffic signals themselves (so the red lights themselves actually flash brightly and rapidly). The Opticom signaling system has also been used to control emergency highway access gates, security gates, airport access control points and more. As an added feature, the signal preemption systems in Williston, VT have electronic voice warnings at crosswalks notifying that an “Emergency Vehicle is Approaching, Do Not Cross”.   

       I'm a volunteer firefighter in a town with an Opticom system and I haven't stopped for a traffic light in 3 years.
Badscience, Apr 15 2003

       Thanks. When idea was posted, I searched for flashing strobes which are preferable. Simply - strobes won't be confused for a signal which is out of commision (Aw, crap it's gonna be stop and go for the next 1/2 mile) but definitely indicate an emergency vehicle approaching, perhaps from around a corner a 1/2 mile away - without any wonderment on the part of civilian drivers. Does your town have millions of inhabitants/vehicles?
thumbwax, Apr 15 2003

       [Badscience], I too put a transmitter on my Ducati motorcycle and I haven't stopped for a traffic light in 3 years. In think the inclusion of the strobe light was added so that police officers nearby could be alerted to watch for an authorized vehicle passing through. If not... spot the clever engineer! :)
Prof Manitou, Apr 15 2003

       Why not make a unit that goes inside the car that detects the opticom signal and gives the driver the direction of which the emergency vehicle is coming from.   

       Such a product would be ideal for the youngsters with music loud enough to hide a siren, and so interested in fiddling with the radio they don't notice the flashing lights.   

       Of course getting them to buy one is another story.
amuron2, Dec 21 2003

       OMG this is so baked, right down to the colour, they're on like every traffic light where I live. a friend of mine even had a car once that would set them off when he honked the horn.
ModernDivo, Sep 18 2008


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