Bulletin Reports

Alternatives to Highway Flares

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded a study that assessed alternative highway flares that use chemical or electric sources of energy, thus reducing the risks posed by traditional flares. The magnesium-based highway flares traditionally used by law enforcement can create risks for officers and the surrounding area. These flares burn at high temperatures for 15 to 30 minutes, creating smoke and fumes that can overwhelm the user. Afterward, personnel must dispose of the hot, melted remains.

“Most agencies do not have policies about the disposal of flares,” said Charlie Mesloh, director of the Weapons and Equipment Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University. “It’s completely discretionary.” With funding from NIJ, Mesloh and his colleagues conducted research into alternative flares and found that the chemical and electric ones tested were less visible than the traditional flares when placed at ground level. However, when the researchers lifted them off the ground, even by just a few inches, visibility increased by a quarter of a mile. When placed on a cone, the alternative flares were visible at one mile or more. In addition, the researchers found that basic, uncomplicated designs for cones and flares were most effective and visible. Arrangements using multiple flare types disoriented and confused other drivers.

To obtain the report Evaluation of Chemical and Electric Flares, pertaining to this study, access http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/224277.pdf