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Useful but Dangerous: LED Traffic Lights Save Energy, Hide in Snow

LED Traffic Lights Save Energy, Hide Under SnowBy now, you should know that every technological advancement comes with a major downside. The assembly line brought cheap motorized transport to the masses, but pumped countless tons of atmosphere-destroying pollutants into the sky. While lithium-ion batteries gave our cell phones and laptops the ability to last all day, they have an unsettling tendency to burst into flames when you least expect it. Not surprisingly then, LED traffic lights have their own potentially deadly pitfall.

What makes LED traffic lights so appealing is efficiency. They last years without being replaced and use up to 90-percent less energy than the incandescent precursors. Unfortunately, all that efficiency removes a crucial ingredient that urban engineers have been relying on to keep intersections safe -- heat. All that wasted energy from an incandescent bulb is released as heat, which, in a storm, melts ice and snow and keeps the signals clear. LEDs, on the other hand, burn so cool that such things merely collect on the surface, obscuring lights completely.

According to the AP, the failure of LED traffic signals to melt snow has been blamed for several accidents, and at least one death, across several colder U.S. states. Authorities are testing several solutions, including weather shields and heating elements, but until then, drivers in areas prone to heavy storms will just have to be cautious. Remember, if you can't see the light, treat it like a stop sign. [From: AP, via: Engadget]

Tags: dangerous, driving, led, top, traffic, traffic light, TrafficLight