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  • Bulbs too close to the road such that bumps in the road obscure the flare
  • Rubberized housings that spring up into the air (pancake) as the car passes
    over. This design can pop into the air hitting the vehicle behind.
  • Flares having switches that are difficult to find and use in the dark.
  • Flares having rotating dazzling beams which can confuse drivers at the most
    critical time when they are passing the hazard.
  • Flares with inadequate intensity. Good flares permit the intensity to be
    adjusted to match the areas highways.
  • Flares with inadequate battery life or rechargeable flares that can go dark
    when not charged.
  • Flares that emit light having hotspots which can confuse drivers. Hotspots
    can be identified by shining the flare on a wall. The light beam should not
    have dark zones and bright zones.

Dangerous Road Flares

Anyone standing on a highway quickly realizes that cars pass very quickly. In fact cars approach first responders at speeds approximately equal to the speed of a major-league baseball. Batters do not stand at the plate with their back to the pitcher. No one wants to be hit with a baseball at 85 mi/hr. There are many instances where the batter, seeing a bad pitch, moves to avoid the injury that would result if his eyes were not on the ball.

That car coming down the highway is like a 3000 pound baseball. It can do substantially more damage than a baseball. It deserves undivided attention at least equal to the attention that the batter gives the pitcher in major league baseball. If a first responder is on a highway using equipment which requires his attention be drawn from oncoming vehicles that first responder is in danger. He - like the batter- deserves the chance to move to avoid injury if a dangerous car is approaching. The correct flare design gives him that chance.

The great majority of drivers would not crash into a first responder on the roadway even if the first responder was not alert. It may be that only one driver out of 10,000 is problematic. These odds seem great until one realizes that the 10,000 good drivers can pass in a period of time leaving the first responder at the mercy of the one problem driver. In both 2011 and in 2012 first responders in Maryland were run down while setting up flares. Do not give first responders road flares which extend their time in the roadway or which require their attention for switching or activation.

Next time you are on an airplane taxing at night you'll notice a line of blue steady lights. These are called taxiway lights and are there to identify the borders of the taxiway so the pilot will not steer his plane into dangerous areas. The lights are not flashing "on-off "because if they were the pilot may misconstrue an "off" light as destination for his plane. Highway drivers are frequently moving faster than a taxying aeroplane. In addition they are probably more tired and subject to more distractions within their vehicle. Do not give first responders road flares with high frequency on-off blinking or rotating beams as they will confuse rather than guide drivers past your hazard.

Incendiary flares are still in use by many departments but they are extremely dangers from many perspectives. They are toxic, environmentally unsafe, burn first responders, start fires, have resulted in first responders being run down, force first responders to return to replace burned flares and finally they are expensive. Do not give first responders incendiary road flares.

Electronic flares have been tried by many departments but some of these designs are more like toys rather than life-saving equipment. There is no guarantee that any equipment will prevent all bad drivers from crashing into first responders. However flares having critical design features can be a major factor in avoiding accidents. Many electronic flares in use are patently dangerous and should never be used. Some have been tested with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Justice and found to have "considerably lower scores" and "obscure the visibility even at short distances". Yet they are still being sold and relied upon by first responders. Make sure your people are not relying on road flares which are demonstrated as having visibility issues.

Electronic road flares can be covered up by light snowfall placing first responders at risk during dangerous snowstorms. In snow prone areas do not give first responders flares which are covered up by snowfall.