MDOT, Kent County road crews switching to green hazard lights

Kent County Road Commission green lights plow
Green lights flash on a newly equipped Kent County Road Commission plow truck. (Nov. 15, 2016)

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) –- West Michigan’s white-washed roads may become safer this winter thanks to flashes of green.

As part of a pilot project two years ago, the Kent County Road Commission began testing green lights on its plow trucks in hopes of making them more visible in the snow.

Jerry Byrne, deputy managing director of operations for the Kent County Road Commission, says drivers are pretty much ignoring his crew’s caution lights.

“Ambers (lights) are used by so many different types of entities, from the post office to the trash service. Everybody’s running ambers, so the motorists become kind of numb to that, so they’re not slowing down,” said Byrne.

The county road commission started using using the lights on some of its trucks last year, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Byrne says the top reason for the light change is the number of personal injury accidents they see each winter.

“Because our trucks are going to be going 25 to 35 (mph) max [and] they’re driving around at 45 to 50 (mph) plus… they’re slamming into the back of our trucks,” explained Byrne.

MDOT spokesperson John Richard told 24 Hour News 8 blue and green lights have the highest visibility on the color spectrum, according to experts. However in Michigan, blue lights are reserved for law enforcement.

Richard said other states like Ohio have been using the green strobes since winter 2013, with positive feedback from drivers.

MDOT says it will be gradually changing out its lights as well, equipping new winter maintenance trucks with green strobes.

“To differentiate this green light with a traffic light, winter maintenance vehicles will have a green strobe to improve visibility. So red still means stop and green still means go. But when the green is flashing… please go slow,” explained Richard in a statement.

As for the Kent County Road Commission, Byrne says they are still working on how to outfit the trucks to maximize visibility of the new lights.

The County Road Association says about 85 percent of member agencies will have the green lights installed on some of their vehicles by next winter.