Blue lights being added to SD snowplows

25 plows will use new lighting on trial basis

Flashing blue lights have been added to 25 of the South Dakota Department of Transportation's snowplow fleet on a trial basis for the 2020-21 winter season. (South Dakota Department of Transportation photo)

PIERRE -- The South Dakota Department of Transportation has added flashing blue lights to the snowplow fleet across the state, with the goal of improving safety for motorists and snowplow drivers.

The pilot program will include 25 trucks equipped with the flashing blue lights spread out across the state.

“Snowplow drivers provide an essential service to our communities,” said South Dakota Interim Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt. “The blue lights will add more visibility to our snowplow fleet to ensure they can continue to clear roads and keep drivers safe.”

The SDDOT said studies have shown people have become desensitized to the flashing amber lights. The blue lights have greater visibility in certain situations and because they have a higher frequency and shorter wavelength of light, they appear to be moving closer rather than farther away giving drivers a chance to react more quickly.

The most common crash statistic for snowplows is being hit from behind. Snowplows, when the blades are down, are travelling at 25 mph or less. Motorists are asked to slow down and stay eight car lengths behind the plow and to never pass one in a snow cloud and remember the snowplow driver is clearing the road ahead, so the safest place is behind the plow.


SDDOT rolls out new 511 website, apps

In addition to the changes with the snowplow lights, the SDDOT has rolled out a new traveler information website and mobile app just in time for holiday travel and winter driving.

Using, SDDOT will continue to offer up-to-date information, including road camera images, road and weather conditions, road closures, construction work zones, commercial vehicle restrictions and traffic incidents by phone, web page and mobile app.

SDDOT’s new website replaces the old SafeTravelUSA website, providing an improved appearance and new features like current traffic levels and compatibility with modern web browsers. The 511 apps are available free from app stores for mobile phones and tablets. The apps display the same information as the website, automatically configure to device screen size, and remember user preferences for favorite routes or destinations.

“One of the most significant new features of the phone-based 511 system is voice recognition,” said SDDOT Research Program Manager Dave Huft. “This feature allows users to request travel information hands-free by voice, not just phone keypad; which is a great advancement toward promoting roadway safety.”

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