WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mercedes-Benz sought to equip its vehicles in the US with brake lights that would rapidly flash on and off when a driver stopped suddenly. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rejected the proposal.
The European Union approved the technology in February.
Mercedes argued that flashing lights would allow motorists to determine whether the driver ahead was making a panic stop or braking normally. The carmaker says it has evidence that motorists would hit the brakes more quickly and avoid a rear-end crash.
But the agency replied that Mercedes had not proved that flashing lights would yield a major safety gain. So a federal rule that requires steady illumination of brake lights will stand.
“The company was disappointed by the decision,” says Barry Felrice, director of regulatory affairs in DaimlerChrysler’s Washington office.
Since April, the current Mercedes S class has been fitted with the new adaptive brake light in Europe. The carmaker also has begun fitting new CL-class coupes with the system.
Rear-end collisions account for more than 20 percent of all crashes, NHTSA says. They cause more than 1,600 deaths and nearly 700,000 injuries a year.
Federal regulators are studying possible remedies. They include adaptive cruise control devices that automatically slow vehicles that get too close to cars in front of them. Other systems would provide larger or more intense lights to
signal emergency stops.