Have you ever been driving and almost rammed into the back of the car in front of you? Forcing you to slam on your brakes last minute and sending your shopping flying off the seats and crashing to the floor. Then moments after realising that it isn’t your fault at all, blame falling to the driver ahead for not having working brake lights. How can you possibly know they are slowing down without a keen focus on depth perception? After all, it’s a skill to manage the numerous other attention sucking tasks that all drivers must juggle. The brake light makes it easy, blatantly obvious, that we are reducing speed, but when one of them are out, or even worse, both, it’s a recipe for disaster.
This issue plagued my mind many years ago when I started out driving on my P Plates. During my daily commute back and forth from the suburbs to the city I would see people with faulty brake lights, left one out here, right one out there, sometimes both of them wouldn’t be working and I’d find frustration taking over. I’d swap lanes as soon as I could so I didn’t have to deal with the extra concentration required on judging distance between my vehicle and the one in front, leaving that burden to someone else on the road to deal with. It got me thinking, surely these drivers weren’t purposefully driving without working brake lights. Nobody would want to intentionally put themselves, their vehicle and other drivers at risk. No, it had to be that they didn’t know that their brake lights weren’t working. They don’t do checks on their vehicle often enough or they haven’t had a mechanics service lately that would cover all of these routine checks. Which brought me to me next question, how do we tell them so they can make sure the problem gets resolved?
Obviously this is a communication breakdown, it lives by my rule that 95% of problems can be solved or prevented with communication. Simple, but how do you tell a driver going down the road at 80km/h that their brake light is out, you can’t shout it out the window at speed, they’d never hear you and it’d be down right dangerous. You could try to tell them at the next set of traffic lights but the chances of traffic working in your favour so that you can pull up to their side is quite slim. If traffic was on your side then you’d need to wind down your window, get their visual attention, they’d have to wind down their window and then you’d have a very brief conversation before the lights turned green again. This is all very circumstantial and not very likely to happen, being further compounded by the communication barrier. Not everyone has the confidence to strike up a conversation roadside with another fellow commuter, most people would just take the easy way out and do nothing.
So are we forever doomed to living with faulty brake lights on our roads? Thankfully not, as I have devised a solution that you can easily put together at home to solve this problem once and for all. The two things that you will need is an A4 Printer and an A4 Laminator.
Click the text below to download these two files:
DOWNLOAD -> Left Brake Light
DOWNLOAD -> Right Brake Light
Now all you need to do is print these PDF Files. There is a little trick to it though, if you have a duplex printer, meaning print on both sides of a sheet of paper then it should be easy. If you have a regular printer like me then I find it’s best to draw an ‘X’ or a ‘line’ on the top of the next piece of printing paper, print something out and compare where your ‘X’ or ‘line’ started to where it is when finished so that you can understand where your printer prints ink and how the paper moves through the printer mechanism. Armed with this knowledge, print off the above ‘Left and Right Brake Light PDFs’. Run the ‘Left Brake Light PDF’ through first, then put the same printed piece of paper back into the printer as per our above experiment and print the ‘Right Brake Light PDF’. You should end up with something like this:
Final step is to laminate this badboy so that it’s protected from weather and can remain in good condition throughout all of it’s uses over time. Laminators you can pick up pretty cheap from your local office supplies store, alternatively places like Officeworks or Staples should be able to do A4 Lamination for less then $1.
You are now done, keep this laminated print out in your car and on standby, ready to use should you encounter a fellow driver with a faulty brake light.
HOW TO USE
You may have noticed that the Left and Right Brake Light Printouts are backwards, while this may seem a bit silly at first, I can guarantee you that it’s not. As discussed before, communication to the other driver is key, for it to be effective it needs to be as easy as possible.
If you are driving behind another motorist and notice that one of their brake lights is out, just stay driving behind them. Next time you pull up to a traffic light, grab your Brake Light Printout and hold up the corresponding Left/Right Side. It’s best to hold it next to your head so the other driver will see something move and then use eye contact and a wave to acknowledge that they see you. Because the text is backwards it reads the correct way when viewed in a mirror. So rather then the driver having to turn their head to read your message, all they need to do is give a quick glance to their rear view mirror and they’ll be well informed of their faulty brake light.
If both of their brake lights are out, they will get your message that one of them is not working and surely check both lights when they begin work to mend the issue.
This is a great way to communicate to your fellow motorists that their brake light is broken. It’s easy, requires little effort on your part and might even strike up a laugh or a good story for both you and your fellow motorist to tell a friend. ‘Hey, you’ll never guess what happened today. I was driving, got a red and stopped at a lights, caught sight of this woman in my rear view. She was holding up a sign telling me my brake light was out. A little bizarre but hey, she was right.’ Then when they stop to really think about it they’ll realise your pure genius, ‘how did I manage to read that text in my mirror?’. For all you shy people out there, take comfort in hiding behind the sign, no need to break free of your comfort zone if you don’t feel like it. Hold up the words and let them do the talking!
Hopefully you find this helpful and I truly hope that with all of our combined efforts we can finally get rid of all those faulty brake lights on our roads!