WASHINGTON -- Mercedes-Benz is persisting in its campaign to bring flashing brake lights to the US.
The company is counting on thousands of customers to help convince US regulators of the safety benefits of brake lights that flash rapidly in emergency stops.
Mercedes-Benz has asked the US government's National Highway Traffic Safety Admini-stration for a two-year exemption from federal rules that require "steady-burning" lights on vehicles.
The company says that in those two years, it would sell as many as 5,000 cars with brake lights that flash during panic stops.
The experiences of the cars' owners would help determine the value of the flashing lights. Those drivers would be rear-ended less often and less severely, Mercedes-Benz predicts.
Safety gain doubts
Flashing brake lights are permitted in Europe. They are available there on Mercedes-Benz S-class, CL-class and SL-class cars.
In May, NHTSA rejected a Mercedes-Benz petition for a permanent rule change that would allow flashing brake lights on vehicles sold in the US.
The agency said the company had not proved there would be a significant safety gain from the technology. NHTSA says it is studying other remedies to reduce rear-end crashes.
In a follow-up petition, made public October 7, Mercedes-Benz asked NHTSA for the temporary exemption instead of a rule change.
Mercedes-Benz says in its petition that the flashing-light function is strictly controlled. It operates only if vehicle speed is greater than 31mph (about 50kph) and only if the vehicle's deceleration meets one of several criteria for severity.
The company calculates that flashing would occur only 23 times in every 100,000 brake applications. The technology would not contribute to "optical pollution," Mercedes-Benz says.
NHTSA says it will take comments on the Mercedes-Benz petition until Nov. 7 and then make a decision.
More than 20 percent of US crashes are rear-enders, NHTSA says. Those crashes account for more than 1,600 deaths and nearly 700,000 injuries each year.