LED Signals Seen as Potential Hazard
CHICAGO — Last April, the driver of a pickup truck approaching an intersection in the far western suburb of Oswego went past a red light obscured by snow and struck a 34-year-old woman turning left in her car.
The woman died and four other people were injured in the accident, which was among the first to raise concerns here and around the Midwest about a relatively new driving hazard related to inclement weather: traffic signals, like those in Oswego, that use light-emitting diodes, known as LEDs.
The new lighting is part of a fast-growing trend in environmentalism. LED bulbs use less energy, last longer and are more visible than their predecessors. They are also known to require less maintenance. But they do not emit nearly as much heat as conventional bulbs, allowing snow and ice to accumulate more easily in certain conditions.
As winter storms roared through the country’s midsection and pummeled the East Coast, officials said they were on the alert for LEDs.
In Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states, special efforts are being made to ensure that the signals do not pose an undue threat to drivers.
“Do I think the accident would have happened if the light was not covered in snow?” said Detective Rob Sherwood of the Oswego Police Department, referring to the accident in April. “I’d be willing to bet that it would not have happened if the driver that went through the light had an unobstructed view of the signal. It was the first indication in this community that the LED lights were not melting the snow.”
In the last seven years, Wisconsin has converted more than 90 percent of the lighting under state control to LED bulbs.
For those of you in sunnier climes, this is how energy efficiency can be lethal:
I'm wondering about the lights on emergency vehicles which apparently are also switching to LEDs, they are now on a bar (which could easily be covered w/snow) rather than the old rotating lights.