November 17, 2018

The Dreaded Red Light

The Dreaded DriveCam Red Light

The Dreaded DriveCam Red Light

No, we’re not talking about traffic signals here … to a motorcoach driver, the dreaded red light is the red light on the DriveCam — the tiny red light barely visible at the bottom right of the rear-facing lens on the video black box mounted on the windshield of most motorcoaches these days. But it glares, at least subconsciously, in a driver’s eyes.

The DriveCam actually has two video cameras — one facing the driver and interior of the coach, and the other facing outward through the windshield toward the road ahead. It’s always turned on, but only records information when it’s triggered by an exceptional force — hard braking, swerving, collision, etc. Then it saves about 20 seconds of video — half before and half after the event that triggered it. It’s intended for two purposes: 1) encouraging drivers to drive more smoothly and carefully; and 2) in the event of a collision, to assess liability.

I’ve always prided myself in smooth driving: easy starts, smooth stops, slow turns; it’s important to me that passengers are comfortable and feel safe when I’m driving. It’s very rewarding to receive compliments on smooth driving, and I do get them regularly. So it’s really a blow to my pride when I bring a coach back to the terminal at night with the red light lit.

Early Thursday afternoon I had dropped my group off for lunch in Philadelphia, and was on my way to find parking. A car in front of me started to make a right hand turn, then unexpectedly came to a complete stop still blocking my lane. I had to brake harder than normal to avoid a collision. I didn’t think much about it, since I had no passengers, until I looked over at the camera and saw I had set it off — that little light, normally green, was now a bright red! Ugh.

That red light glared at me the rest of the day. It seemed to get brighter every time I looked at it. My only consolation was that it had happened when I had no passengers, and that it was set off by just a harder than normal stop, nothing serious. But it also becomes serious motivation to adjust my driving to avoid similar situations in the future. The DriveCam people claim that when their product is installed on commercial vehicles, it has reduced vehicle damages, workers’ compensation and personal injury costs by 50 percent. I can see how that might be so, and that’s certainly powerful incentive for their use.

On the one hand, it’s “big brother” watching over your shoulder all the time. But at the same time I realize that some day the camera might be my vindication if I’m ever unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision with another driver. If I were the owner of the company I drive for, and had invested the millions of dollars in motorcoaches that are on the road every day, I’d want to have an eye on what was happening, too. So I can’t fault the company for installing them, or the insurance company for encouraging their use. It’s an imperfect world, and the cameras are here to stay.

What do you think? Has the presence of cameras changed the way you drive? What issues have you had with them? Have they ever exonerated you in a collision? I’m interested in hearing your stories and opinions.

About Bob Bergey

Bob has been driving motorcoaches since 2002, in every state east of the Mississippi and a few west, as well as the four southeastern-most provinces of Canada. In addition to driving, he's an avid photographer (and former professional), enjoys writing and technology.

Comments

  1. Derek Luther says:

    I, too, have been “victim” to the red light. Mine was an NYC cab that came into my lane and hit the brakes in order to pick up a new fare!

    Maybe you could share some tips for smooth driving in another post!

  2. EightWheels says:

    Derek, the number one rule for driving smoothly in NYC: Don’t drive in NYC on days the cabs are there. LOL.

    Good idea, though — I’ll write more on smooth driving soon.

  3. Not a bad idea, but wouldn’t it be nicer if the light would not turn red. It seems to me that with the light turning red, if you have a “paranoid” driver, he would concentrate more on that little red light than the rest of his trip. Take new drivers for example. They not only want to do a good job for the customer, they want to keep their job. I can just imagine if it were me on my first trip alone and something happened that caused that red light to come on. I would concentrate more on that red light for the rest of the trip than I should. Taking my mind off the job at hand. A similar situation with traffic cams happened to me on my first trip into Washington DC alone. I had been told by many many drivers not to run a red light in DC. They would mail you a ticket from a traffic cam if you were caught. That whole trip I caught myself “slamming” on my brakes at every yellow light I got caught with and more than once my passengers paid the price. Nothing serious, but it was not as smooth of a trip as it should have been. From that trip on, I made up my mind, I was not going to think of those cameras, my concern was my passengers. If I were caught by a red light because I refused to slam my passengers into the seat in front of them, so be it. They were my main concern, not some camera or some “red light”.

  4. Trying to figure out what two flashing red lights mean to the bottom left and right of the lens. They have been on since I started the bus this morning. I’m thinking it isn’t connected to the web or something. Really just looking for conformation. Ty

  5. Is this on a DriveCam unit? I’ve never seen two flashing red lights.

    Bob

  6. So what do the two flashing red lights mean it is very distracting while i drive