Northern Michigan drivers: new green lights on snowplows means go slow

mdot snow plow

New green flashing lights are being incorporated on winter maintenance vehicles in Michigan this winter. And, while motorists are used to green meaning go, in this case, green means slow down.


In an effort to reduce crashes, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and several Michigan county road commissions and municipalities will be using green and amber lights that may be flashing, rotating or oscillating on 70 percent of their winter maintenance vehicles.

“Our visual system would be more attracted to a bright green light versus a bright white flashing light in a heavy snowstorm,” said Dr. Bernie Tekiele of the Michigan Eye Institute. “Our visual system is piqued to be sensitive to the green/yellow spectrum.”

Studies suggest that humans can differentiate more shades of green than any other color. Better visibility with green lights means safer roads for winter maintenance workers and motorists. The Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) has been piloting the green lights for the past two years with great success.

“We haven’t had any rear-end accidents with the green lights on the trucks that we’ve had for the past two years and that’s what we’re really trying to eliminate,” said Jerry Byrne, KCRC deputy managing director. “Folks slow down and don’t rear-end the backs of the trucks. We’ve had injury incidents in the past, so our goal is to spend a little money to save the number of accidents.”

As the lights on trucks are replaced, the new green lenses are being incorporated.

“The cost, really, to the state is just the lens on the back of a light. It’s small. Something less than $100 per truck,” said Mark Geib, MDOT engineer of Operations Field Services. “So, since we put lights on anyway, in time there’s really going to be no additional cost to speak of.”

Wider use of the green lights is a result of legislation sponsored by Rep. Rob VerHeulen of Walker that amends the Michigan Vehicle Code to allow for the use of the color green on maintenance vehicles.


[gview file=””]