'Cool' LED traffic lights get snow clogged easily, confused drivers run red lights

BROOK PARK, Ohio - Car after car blew through red lights at the intersection of Smith and Hummel Roads Wednesday in Brook Park. The drivers probably didn't even know and that was the danger.

In fact, Thursday, a NewsChannel5 reported witnessed a crash at Berea Road and W. 117th Street.

"Everybody was going through the light. I thought it was green, but it was red and I got in a crash," the driver, Orlando Rivera, told NewsChannel5.

A Lakewood Police officer told NewsChannel5 that a crew was dispatched to clear the snow off the traffic light moments after the crash.

As NewsChannel5 reported last year, many cities are saving money by switching traffic lights to energy-efficient LED lights which are cool - so cool they don't melt snow that gets clogged on the lights.

Incandescent traffic lights heat up to 90 degrees, melting snow. Robert Mavec, commissioner for the Division of Streets, says it is a fact the LED lamps do no generate heat like an incandescent lamp and therefore do not melt snow as effectively. 

Now, wind driven snow sticks to the cool LED lights, making it impossible for many drivers to be able to tell if the light is green, yellow or red.

Some officials have said if you're not sure, you should treat the intersection as a four way stop.

But the problem is deeper than that.

People are conditioned to look for a bright red light and if they don't see one, they keep driving.

"Though energy-efficient LED traffic lights are cost-savers, it is evident that there is reason to be concerned, particularly during snow storms. As a former mayor, I'm encouraged to hear that local governments are dedicated to improving public safety. I thank Channel 5 for raising awareness about this important issue and I'm confident that our local leaders will take the appropriate steps to address it," Ohio Representative Jim Renacci said.

There were numerous close calls during Wednesday's wind driven snowstorm in Brook Park.

One driver nearly ran into a snow plow, another had a close call with a truck.

Other cities throughout the country, looking to prevent serious injury or fatal crashes, are looking into ways to fix the LED lights so snow doesn't block the traffic light.

There are wind shields that block the snow, heat sensors and some cities just go around clearing them manually which is time consuming.

Watch the video above to see the lights in action.

Also, join the conversation about issues with LED traffic lights on Paul Kiska's Facebook page


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