Here’s a warning you can give to your company’s drivers: Beware snow-covered traffic signals. They’re a new problem due to energy-efficiency efforts.
Many traffic lights now use LED bulbs instead of incandescent ones. Reason: The LEDs are 80% to 90% more energy-efficient.
And that energy efficiency is the problem. The energy wasted by incandescent bulbs was heat. But in winter storms, that heat was melting snow that accumulated on the lights.
The LEDs don’t generate enough heat to melt snow, and that’s been blamed for one traffic fatality and dozens of other collisions and injuries.
In a storm in Illinois last April, 34-year-old Lisa Richter had a green light and entered an intersection. A driver coming from the opposite direction couldn’t see the red light that was obscured by snow and plowed into Richter’s car, killing her.
The snow doesn’t stick to the lights in every storm. The snow has to be wet and the wind blowing in the right direction to obscure the LED lights.
When motorists have called in about lights obscured by snow, crews have had to manually clear them off. In some places they blow the snow off using compressed air.
Several solutions are being tried, such as using heating elements like those in airport runway lights, installing weather shields or coating the lights with water-repellent substances.
Your company drivers probably know that when a traffic light isn’t working because of a power outage, they should treat the intersection as a four-way stop. The same goes if the lights are obscured by snow. They should stop before entering the intersection.