Police Say Vehicle Lights Aren't Too Bright, But Just Right


(Monday, December 24, 2007 11:36 AM EST)

It's hard to miss Arlington County Police Department patrol vehicles, when their blue LED (light-emitting diode) lights are flashing. But are the lights too bright?

Arlington resident Adam Clay thinks so, after recently seeing “several cars weave into the adjacent lane, when blinded by a patrol car.”

“I'm afraid that they may cause far more accidents than they prevent,” he suggested.

But the police department stands by its decision to switch from traditional strobe lights to LED lights.

The LED lights “are more noticeable, especially during the day,” said police spokesman John Lisle. “And that could help protect officers when they have to make traffic stops on busy streets.”

The patrol cars' LED light bars and rear-window lights, which the department started using a couple years ago, also are more energy efficient than the traditional strobes and are better for the environment overall.

The older lights took about 25 amps from the battery to run, but the LED lights only take between four and six amps, which allows for longer battery life.

Less strain on the batteries has resulted in fewer problems with the vehicles' alternators, which has saved the department money on expensive repairs, a police official told the Sun Gazette.

The LEDs also have helped cut back costs because they do not have to be replaced as often as the traditional strobes.

“They're a little bit more expensive, but they last 10 to 12 years, easily,” said Capt. Kamran Afazal, the department's fleet manager. “The older lights lasted for maybe four or five.”

For drivers concerned that they won't be able to the see the road when a nearby patrol car's lights are on, Afzal suggests that they avoid looking directly into the light.

Drivers should also move away from the patrol vehicle and to slow down while passing, he said.

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