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Got LED traffic signals in your area?

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by blueiron, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. blueiron

    blueiron

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    I found this rather interesting from a traffic incident investigation viewpoint. If it snows in your AO, you might want to consider if it is a factor.



    Winter hazard in new LED signals

    by Gerry Smith - Jan. 4, 2010 08:31 AM
    Chicago Tribune

    CHICAGO - In April, Lisa Richter was making a left turn on green in Oswego, Ill., when she was struck by a vehicle traveling the opposite direction, killing her instantly.

    Authorities say Richter, 34, might still be alive if not for an unintended consequence of green technology - the LED traffic signal facing the other driver was obscured by snow. Oswego Police Detective Rob Sherwood called the snow-covered energy-efficient signal "a contributing factor" in the crash.

    "If the light had not been covered, I personally feel the accident would have not occurred," he said.

    Cities nationwide have switched to LED traffic signals because they burn brighter, last longer and save money by using 90 percent less energy than older incandescent bulbs. But they also emit less heat, meaning they sometimes have trouble melting snow.

    This has caused problems across the Midwest. In Wisconsin last month, snow blanketed LED traffic lights in some towns, leading to "crashes at intersections where drivers aren't sure whether to stop or go," according to The Associated Press.

    Manufacturers say they are aware of the problem and have looked at solutions, such as adding a heating element to LED signals. But adding heat would diminish the energy savings of LED signals, said Roy Burton, chief executive of Dialight, an LED traffic-signal manufacturer.

    "We can remove the snow with heat, but the cost of doing that in terms of energy use has not brought any enthusiasm from cities and states that buy these signals," Burton said. "They'd like to be able to take away this issue, but they don't want to spend the money and lose the savings."

    Those savings can be significant. When St. Charles, Ill., installed LED traffic lights at First and Illinois avenues in 2005, energy costs dropped from $63.30 a month to $9.95.

    Communities also save money on replacing signals because LED lights last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. And they can receive funding to cover upfront costs. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has given out $9.9 million in grants for 150 government agencies to upgrade traffic signals at nearly 5,400 intersections around Illinois, according to the foundation's Web site.

    Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Transportation has aggressively pushed for replacing incandescent traffic signals with LED lights, requiring communities that install red-light cameras to use LED traffic lights at those intersections because they burn brighter, said Priscilla Tobias, an IDOT safety engineer.

    LEDs "are much more visible to the motorist so they have more time to see the traffic signal and react," Tobias said. "Not only are we addressing energy efficiency, we're also improving safety at intersections."

    In Chicago's suburbs, engineers say snow can cover LED traffic signals, but only under certain conditions - wet, driving snow and freezing temperatures - and rarely every signal at an intersection.

    They say the problem is easily remedied by maintenance crews using brooms and occurs so infrequently - once or twice a winter - that it does not outweigh the benefits of energy efficiency.

    "Maybe it takes longer to melt and you have to go and clean them off, but it's part of the trade-off for years of energy savings," said Tony Khawaja, a traffic engineer for the Lake County Division of Transportation.

    In Kendall County, crews are occasionally dispatched during winter to remove snow or ice from LED traffic signals by using a pole or a heating device, said Francis Klaas, a county highway engineer.

    "But usually by the time we get there, it's gone," Klaas said.

    Klaas declined to comment on whether the county had received reports about the traffic signal in Oswego being obscured, citing pending litigation.

    All of Naperville's estimated 100 intersections with traffic lights are equipped with LED signals, community relations manager Nadja Lalvani said. The city began installing the lights several years ago.

    "In this most recent snow and ice storm we didn't receive any complaints, and we don't have concerns about them," Lalvani said. She said she could not recall Naperville receiving complaints of snow or ice obstructing LED signals in previous years.

    Richter's fiance, Robert Leathers, who was a passenger in her vehicle and suffered "significant injuries" in the crash, has filed a lawsuit against Alex Dyche, whose 2002 Dodge Ram hit Richter's 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier shortly after 7 a.m. at Orchard Road and Lewis Street, according to police and court records.

    At the time, the red light signal facing Dyche, who was traveling south on Orchard Road, was blanketed with snow, and the green right-turn arrow was partly obscured, giving it the appearance of a normal green light, said Dyche's attorney, Steven Danekas.

    No citations were issued in the accident, and the police have concluded their investigation, Sherwood said.

    However, Leathers alleges that Dyche, 33, was "careless and negligent" for failing to reduce speed, sound a horn and "observe and obey a traffic control device," according to the lawsuit.

    In an interview, Richter's father, Ed Richter, said the snow-covered traffic signal may have been a contributing factor in the crash that killed his daughter, but that it should not absolve the driver.

    "Just because he can't see the light doesn't mean he can drive through the intersection without due caution," Richter said.

    Klaas of the county Highway Department said any time motorists cannot see a traffic signal, "they should slow down and stop in accordance with the law."

    "It didn't happen in this case, and it's a terrible tragedy," he said.



    http://www.azcentral.com/business/consumer/articles/2010/01/04/20100104biz-led.html
     
  2. OXCOPS

    OXCOPS

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    Reminds me of the highway advisory signs up here in Flagstaff. They tell you to watch out for snow and/or accidents.....until they get covered in snow and you can't read them.

    This one is just starting to get covered.

    [​IMG]
     

  3. golls17

    golls17 Lifetime Newbie

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    Same problem up here...
     
  4. Sharky7

    Sharky7 Boomshakalaka

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    Same problem in my area of Chicago.

    When power goes out and there are no lights or when the snow covers the light and you can't see the lights, we get a few accidents. Try it out next time a power grid goes out in your area, go sit on a "dark" traffic light and see how many people stop.

    It's almost like some people look for the absence of a red light, then just go....often people not paying 100% attention to what they are doing.
     
  5. SPDSNYPR

    SPDSNYPR Zippy's Friend.

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    It seems pretty simple. If you don't see a light, stop. That's our state law. Stupid people think they just always have the right of way. During storms that cause blackouts, we have this problem. I write the **** out of people who just blow through the intersections assuming that God favors them over all others and they can just go wherever/whenever they want.

    The snow covered red light didn't kill Lisa Richter. The driver going the other direction did. I'd be willing to bet their state law is the same as ours, and the person driving the other car car was too busy to be bothered with stopping.
     
  6. Hack

    Hack Crazy CO Gold Member

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    In Kansas, we have similar traffic laws of course. I agree, it was the negligent driver's fault. Now the case is closed what recourse does her family have?
     
  7. ateamer

    ateamer NRA4EVR

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    Almost all of the signals here are LED, but snow is very rare. Snow falls below 1500 feet maybe once every 20 years, and even then it isn't even a measurable amount. The mountains here get a dusting about once or twice a year that lasts for a day or two.
     
  8. opskmallory

    opskmallory

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    We get a bit of snow, but haven't noticed a problem with the LED lights here. I think we are probably close to about 75% LEDs at our intersections.

    As for lights out, we have that problem a lot with motorists. A year ago we had a serious wind storm that knocked down power to about a third of the city (pop just <100,000). At a few key intersections we put officers with low level lighting to get people to slow down. It helped. But if I'm going to sit there, I'd rather black myself out on the shoulder, and then just pull people over who blow the intersection because they are too busy yapping on the phone or texting.
     
  9. obxemt

    obxemt Chaplain of CT

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    The way I see it, she failed to yield to oncoming traffic while making a left-hand turn. Even if the lights were all completely out, turning traffic doesn't have the right-of-way.

    She killed herself.
     
  10. fran m

    fran m

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    My township first replaced the only the red bulbs. Many of the LEDs in the red housing would go out making the light practically useless. The company that made then went out of business or bankrupt. I heard that they are Chinese manufactured junk but have no proof of that.

    Also LED tailights and lightbars don't melt snow either. More potental problems.
     
  11. seanmcp

    seanmcp CLM

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    The lady had a green left arrow, and the oncoming driver had a red light facing him, but it was next to a green arrow for his adjacent turn lane, which made him think he had a green (straight) light. She had legal right of way, and he blew the stop light, because some of the green facing him (which was for a turn light) was visible and not the red (which was snow covered).

    This wouldn't work quite the same way here, because of how they're laid out (not that it doesn't sometimes cause issues here, in different ways)

    Our traffic lights here commonly have a compound housing when they have more than one function, where the arrows are to the left of the traditional vertical 3 lights. So the left side has 2 lights, hanging in position 2&3 and the right side has 3 positions. L2=Left Yellow, L3=Left Green. R1=Red, R2=Yellow, R3=Green. Sticking a photo below, although this one has the red light centered, when it's sometimes lined upw ith the right stack.

    http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/medium/8680788.jpg

    In this photo, if the person in the red car turning left was the victim, and the left arrow light was green on her side, she'd have right of way to turn left, even with the center light red. And if a person coming from the opposite direction saw the same lights, but the red was obscured and the greens were touching, rather than split like ours, I can see there being enough green at the bottom that he'd think he could go straight. It's still driving w/o due care on his part, but she definitely could have been turning in a perfectly legal fashion.

    But, looking at google maps, which sadly doesn't have street view for that intersection, nearby intersections show the left turn signal lights to be a 4stack of red/yellow/green/green arrow. In this case, the man coming towards her would have had to determine if the green blur was the bottom arrow for left (which would mean he'd look for red on top, supposedly completely obscured) or his green to go, based solely on not seeing red at all.

    Oi. Still a sad day and a reminder to drive defensively and cautiously, especially when it's snowing hard enough to stick to traffic lights. :(
     
  12. DDALET2000

    DDALET2000

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    bingo.
     
  13. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

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    It just keeps getting better, don't it?
    We got those, but no snow... but add a few drops of water on the road and every SoCal driver acts like they are in the snowstorm of the millenium anyway.
     
  14. Glock-it-to-me

    Glock-it-to-me Catching liars

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    Go ask Alice, I think she'll know
    Yup. I helped the street department install them all over town.
     
  15. pal2511

    pal2511

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    Good thing we only got 3 traffic signals and those are not LED.

    Only two of the signals are actually of use too :)
     
  16. AngryBassets

    AngryBassets Jagenden Übel

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    How fast are you going in a snow storm to be involved in a fatal crash? :shocked:
     
  17. seanmcp

    seanmcp CLM

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    If it's a head-on collision between oncoming cars, as it may have been in this case, with one making a left across the other car's path, the total relative velocity could have easily been in excess of 50 MPH, even if the turning car was doing 15 (while on a 55 MPH road, turning onto a 35 MPH road, in the snow) and the oncoming car was going 35 in a 55 (fairly reasonable, if the roadway was clear; we don't know how much snow was on the road/in the air, just stuck to the traffic light). 50 MPH crashes are easily fatal.