LeftieBiker wrote:How is it different from driving a standard shift car in one of the low gears, and taking your foot off the gas...?
It isn't, but that can be unsafe too. The main question in this thread is regarding whether it is safe or could be made safer.
My father in law has been rear-ended twice. Each time, he was driving a manual transmission and using the engine brake to slow down considerably before applying the brakes to finish the stop. Both times were night time.
Yes, it is legal to do. Yes, it is technically the fault of the driver behind. But this driving does indeed increase the risk.
Too many drivers don't pay attention past the brake lights of the car immediately in front. So they don't notice the car stopping until the front car has already reduced speed and the distance has closed and then applied brakes for stopping. The driver in back no longer has the room to react and make up the speed differential. Bam!
I choose to avoid unneeded risk when reasonably foreseeable. Yes, I or my heirs could win the lawsuit, but getting rear ended is not worth it. I don't like the idea of being dead right or crippled right.
As such, while I like to use the B mode, I refrain from doing so in thicker traffic or when someone is relatively close behind me, especially at night. The marginal gains in efficiency aren't worth the risk in my assessment.
I'm really surprised given how much in automobiles are regulated by the Feds that there isn't some sort of standard on this aspect. As noted above, at least one company decided that safety warranted activating the brake lights. But also as noted above, constant brake lights could also increase the risk as there would no longer be contrast between moderated speed and actually stopping hard. I can see that the car companies are at high risk for lawsuits regardless of what they do in this area until there is a regulation that allows the "we followed the government rules and had to do it this way" defense.
Interesting points. For manuals, that arose out of old tech and probably simply hasn't been re-evaluated whether it makes sense to have the new-fangled computers turn on the brake lights when they perceive the driver is using the engine to slow the car. As EVs with this type of regenerative 'braking' become more common, I suspect we will eventually see a rise in cases where this was a factor. Probably after that is noticed statistically, then the companies or the Feds will act on it.
But good question and discussion. Hopefully the companies/Feds read these types of boards and will start looking into this aspect. I suspect the computers can be programmed to recognize when the car is slowing down regardless of what is causing it (e.g., brakes, manual transmission use, starting up a hill, etc.) and turn on the brake lights once a certain threshold is reached. This should avoid the scenario of down-hill use to moderate speed leaving the brake lights on and thereby losing contrast versus when the car actually does start to stop. Also, perhaps the flashing light solution mentioned above could help.