Jun 20, 2024

A Key Concern for Road Safety

Newly installed Road safety camera with flashing lights in kathmandu and its challenges

A Key Concern for Road Safety

Nepal’s employment of speed cameras has proven to be an effective strategy to improve the country’s road safety. These devices essentially uphold speed limits and curtail accidents, which is integral to the fostering of safer road conditions. While these devices do have their strengths, they also have certain unintended negative consequences which must be dealt with in order to preserve the safety of our people. 

 

It must be acknowledged that the utilization of speed cameras have indeed to a good extent, proven to be effective. Nepal’s mountainous terrain and diverse road conditions make speed management a critical factor in the prevention of road accidents. The traffic police report that over-speeding is one of the main causes of accidents, 33% of it in fact and driving under the influence of alcohol comes to a close second. The technology used by the cameras are able to efficiently capture number plates and facial characteristics of the driver. Thus, speed cameras act as a sort of vigilant sentinel that enforces speed limits and creates a culture of compliance, aiding in the prevention of future traffic accidents. 

However, it must be noted that while the cameras have high efficiency, the big and bright flashes they tend to produce may pose a dangerous extraneous variable. The persistence and intensity of flashes that the speed cameras frequently emit raise potential concerns regarding psychological harm. When a person has been exposed to flickering light, their eyes require rapid adjustments to the changing light output that has been emitted, which greatly strains the eye muscles. Those who frequent the areas that have implemented the flashing speed cameras thus are likely to be in prolonged exposure that can induce symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, reduced visual task performance and even neurological problems aside from just eye strain. 

In fact, according to the National Headache Foundation’s report, "Many migraine patients are very sensitive to light, such as bright light and flickering. It is more likely to cause migraine. Slow flashing is usually more likely to cause migraine than fast flashing." "Some fluorescent lighting or flicker from TV or movie screens have similar effects." Furthermore, light exposure can have negative effects when intending to relax, and it could disturb the sleeping cycle and the circadian rhythm of the body’s biological clock. This can prove to be harmful for citizens who reside in areas that have frequent flashes of lights emitting from the speed cameras. 

Not only can these flashes of lights induce migraines, they can also cause photosensitive epilepsy. People who are sensitive to light may have seizures even if they are exposed to visible light in the range of 3-70HZ for a short period of time. This may affect 1 in 4,000 people aged 5-24 years, and they usually start around puberty. 75% of the population will be sensitive to light for life. Certain demographics within our country’s diverse population will be particularly susceptible to such psychological impact of flashing lights. For instance, elderly drivers, who may already face challenges in navigating modern traffic, individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and those with heightened sensitivity to light could experience increased discomfort or stress. Addressing the needs of these vulnerable groups is integral to ensuring that road safety measures do not inadvertently compromise the well-being of specific segments of the population.

Looking beyond just the psychological toll, certain safety concerns in association with the frequent and intense flashes also arise and they cannot be understated. The sudden distraction due to these flashes may lead to confusion that may potentially result in the occurrence of traffic accidents. Similarly if the driver experiences photosensitive epilepsy, accidents are inevitably bound to occur. On top of all this, Nepal’s current road conditions may further amplify the said risks. It is thus necessary to strike a balance between achieving road safety objectives and minimizing the risks associated with flashing lights.  An examination of the public’s perception of speed cameras may become crucial. Raising awareness about the harmful psychological effects of the flashing lights emitted by the speed cameras will play a vital role in the mitigation of the concerns and fostering cooperation. 

Thus, one would like to propose a few technological solutions to aid with the issues that may arise from the use of our current speed cameras. Some consideration could be given to adaptive lighting systems that adjust the intensity and frequency of flashes based on the ambient conditions. By implementing cameras that adjust their lighting based on the time of day, these systems would significantly minimize disruption, during night times or during high pedestrian activity. Alternative methods for speed enforcement that can mitigate the need for intrusive flashing lights could also be put into consideration. For instance, radar-based technologies that focus on detection and deterrence without reliance on intense visual stimuli emitting speed cameras. After all, striking a good balance between enforcement efficiency and the minimization of psychological impact is extremely vital. 

Pilot research studies could be conducted to test and evaluate these proposed solutions in specific regions or controlled conditions. A phased approach like this one allows for a measured assessment of the effectiveness and public reception of such changes. The results from these studies could then be lessons learned for the broader implementation strategies within the nation. 

Long-term integration of solutions to the speed-lights should be taken with seriousness as it has an impact on the country’s broader infrastructure. An assessment of the feasibility in regards to the incorporation of advanced technologies into the existing road safety framework is necessary to ensure that these innovations align with Nepal’s developmental goals and future road infrastructure plans. 

By having actively pursued and implemented technological advancements, Nepal could not only enhance road safety but also demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions that prioritize the well-being of our citizens. As our country navigates the dual challenges of ensuring road safety and the preservation of well-being, it is crucial to acknowledge both the strengths and the unintended consequences of speed cameras. The nation stands at a pivotal juncture where a thoughtful, balanced approach is not just an aspiration but a great necessity. Addressing the strengths and weaknesses of speed cameras while mitigating the psychological safety risks associated with their usage, our country can lead the way in harmonizing road safety measures with the holistic well-being of its diverse citizenry. 

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