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: