Iowa DOT Plans to Make Snowplows More Visible

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AMES, Iowa- The Iowa DOT is asking for a change in state law to make the state's orange snowplows more visible.  The DOT wants to add flashing blue and white lights to the  current flashing amber lights. Since the winter of 2009-10 snowplows have been involved in collisions 218 times. The crashes have resulted in $1.6 million dollars in damages, and 44 personal injuries.  In this 2014-15 winter alone there has been 24 crashes causing $600,000 in damage, and 4 personal injuries.

DOT State Maintenance Engineer Bob Younie has been meeting with state lawmakers to ask for a change in state code to allow the different colored lights. Currently only amber lights are allowed in addition to normal running lights.

"Crashes are no good either for the vehicle that runs into us, or for the snowplow trucks," said Younie. "So we think we're going to try to make the snowplow trucks more visible by adding rear facing blue lights and white lights."

The DOT is planning to spend $225,000 to do a three-year study to find out if blue and white lights will help improve driver awareness of snowplows. If lawmakers give the okay, the study would begin next winter, and conclude with a report in 2018.

"DOT trucks are out there plowing at times we don't even want to be out there,so they're out in bad conditions, sometimes visibility is reduced," said Younie.  "Snowplow trucks drive slower  than the normal traffic does  by quite a bit, 30 mph  or more slower." Younie said there is often a differential in speed which motorists are not aware of.  "We want to make it safer for the motorists, also make it safer for out snowplow operators," said Younie.

The Iowa DOT has checked what neighboring states are doing to make snowplows safer:

Minnesota                     Amber-blue
South Dakota              Amber- white
Nebraska                       Amber-white-blue
Missouri                         Amber-white
Illinois                              Amber

3 comments

  • marcopolish

    It’s amazing how parochial the state seems sometimes. It takes a state law to add some extra lights on the snowplows. Hard to imagine anything that says “Rube” better.

  • marcopolish

    You’d think it wouldn’t take $225K and several years to study, since a number of states have already gone down this road, it’s easy to call them and get their accident rates before and after their shift. I used to work for the state, all we had to do is call the appropriate department in the other states and they often already had experience to share, which they often did willingly with no more than that phone call, maybe a followup email request. Power of the vested interest, anything the state needs to find out shall be bloated over so that some contractors and other friends of legislators can make a few hundred thousand or more bucks off of it.

    • Kenny

      I wonder if I can apply to receive the grant to do the study? I travel to a lot of the surrounding states they list and with the other colored lights the plows appear to be more visible. But, like you mentioned, they probably already have a friend or campaign donor in mind to give the money to.

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