LED traffic lights may cause accidents

Oswego (IL) – As more and more counties are replacing power hungry incandescent traffic lights with LEDs, the northern states are discovering a potentially serious problem that is believed to have already caused at least one death in a car accident.

It turns out that it is exactly the LEDs biggest selling point that is already causing traffic safety concerns. The low power consumption results in less emitted heat, which means that LED-based traffic lights do not melt snow and ice as quickly as traditional lights.

Kendall County authorities are blaming an April 6 fatal car crash near Oswego, Illinois, at least in part on a LED-based traffic light. Snow on LED traffic lights isn’t an entirely new problem. But it seems that as LED lights become more common, there is growing concern over heat dissipation. For example, the Oregon Department of Transportation warned people this winter that lights may be entirely covered with snow at times.
There have been several minor accidents in Oregon due to snow covered LED traffic lights, but no fatal crashes, according to media reports. The 2009 Winter may reveal how serious the issue is as, for example, more than 90% of traffic lights in the Chicago area are planned to be LED based by the end of the year. One solution may be heat emitting LED traffic lights, which are already patented. But there is no information whether such lights are already in use in the U.S.