PHLBOS
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One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:21 am

I'm a bit surprised that a thread wasn't already stated on this subject.

Apparently, there's an issue w/using those new energy-saving LED traffic signal lenses in snow and ice belt regions. The lights aren't hot enough to melt any snow and ice build-up.

Such problems have been blamed for at least 1 death and at least 12 accidents.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/1...raffic-lights-that-c_n_393769.html

Exerpts:

Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside: The bulbs don't burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm – a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.
...
Illinois authorities said that during a storm in April, 34-year-old Lisa Richter could see she had a green light and began making a left turn. A driver coming from the opposite direction did not realize the stoplight was obscured by snow and plowed into Richter's vehicle, killing her.
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N243NW
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:44 am

This was the subject of one of Car Talk on NPR's famous "Puzzlers" from a year or two ago. It will be interesting to see how (or if) this problem will be dealt with.
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Tiger119
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:11 am

Some of the comments by readers at the bottom of the page are right on, you can not blame a malfunctioning traffic signal (be the bulb out, power out totally to the intersection or the lenses obscured by foreign material) for an accident. Every state that I have ever driven in have provisions in their state statues that state (or something close to): if the traffic signal is malfunctioning, out or otherwise out of service drivers approaching said intersection MUST treat it as a four way stop. PERIOD. Now, a police officer can include a malfunctioning traffic signal in a crash report as a potential factor, but it can not be a cause of a crash. People amaze me sometimes (to this day).

Personally, I like the LED signals, they are definitely clearer especially during a weather event and I live in a city that gets some snow.

 twocents 

David
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Kiwirob
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:32 am

Quoting PHLBOS (Thread starter):
Apparently, there's an issue w/using those new energy-saving LED traffic signal lenses in snow and ice belt regions. The lights aren't hot enough to melt any snow and ice build-up.

It's a problem that my company currently have with Navigation Lights for ships, the older Bay15 lamps generate enough heat to melt the ice build up, the new LEDS we released last year don't, I might add that we did point this out to our designers in Germany but they didn't listen, now we have a product which is severely restricted in it's applications. The fix is very easy, all it requires is some heating cable, which puts a large dent into the amount of energy you save by using LED.

[Edited 2009-12-18 02:38:01]
 
don81603
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:41 am



Quoting PHLBOS (Thread starter):
The lights aren't hot enough to melt any snow and ice build-up.

We use them at work as well. To keep them snow free, just remove the screws, and place a piece of fishing lineinto the mounting hole, then remount the light with about 2 inches of line exposed. The slipstream created by driving causes the line to whip around, and keeps the snow from building up.
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AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:41 pm

The first time I've heard of any such problems, and here we've had almost all city traffic lights gradually replaced into LEDs. The design of the lights here is different and less conducive to snow and ice accumulation:

 
dxing
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:16 pm



Quoting Tiger119 (Reply 2):
if the traffic signal is malfunctioning, out or otherwise out of service drivers approaching said intersection MUST treat it as a four way stop. PERIOD.

Correct. If you can't tell what color the light is the automatic default is to treat it as a flashing red light for which you must stop.

Quoting KiwiRob (Reply 3):
all it requires is some heating cable, which puts a large dent into the amount of energy you save by using LED.

My exact thought when I read the OP!

Quoting Don81603 (Reply 4):
The slipstream created by driving causes the line to whip around, and keeps the snow from building up.

Works well on a moving vehicle, but what would the effect be on a stationary traffic light?

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 5):
The design of the lights here is different and less conducive to snow and ice accumulation:

I'd be willing to bet that the light in question was probably facing directly into the wind which allowed the snow to build up on the face driven there by the wind. Wen you look at the two designs they are basically the same, the one you show has a larger hood, I would assume because the sun is much lower in the sky during the winter months, but other than that they're basically the same. Given the right snow and wind conditions they would be just as susceptible to icing over.

The person driving the car is responsible for its safe operation. We have several lights here that are on swing mounts so when the wind blows they move rather freely. More than once I've come to a complete stop since I could not determine what color the light was. Crossing traffic did not have the same problem and once I was glad I stopped and the second time the light was green but you couldn't tell until you were almost under it. Still, it is the drivers responsibility to be sure.

That being said, sometimes a good old hot burning incandescent bulb is best suited for the job.
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DocLightning
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:46 pm

So maybe they need to build little heating elements into the lenses? You just need to keep the temperature above 0°C.
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lincoln
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:11 pm



Quoting AverageUser (Reply 5):
The design of the lights here is different and less conducive to snow and ice accumulation

The pictured design is nearly identical to what is common in my present neck of the woods (Northeast Ohio) and I've certainly seen snow buildup -- of course, not for the green indication, but snow "sticks" to the top of the visor for the green light and obscures the yellow light, then sticks to the top of the yellow light and obscures the red light.

But any moron who doesn't realize that if they aren't 100% sure they have a green light they shouldn't pretend that they do diserves what's coming to them.

Sadly, that would be about 90% of the drivers in the aforementioned region. (I've been honked at for coming to a complete stop and refusing to move until cross traffic also came to a stop-- I've also seen a few dozen very close misses).

Lincoln
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AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Fri Dec 18, 2009 8:59 pm



Quoting DXing (Reply 6):
Given the right snow and wind conditions they would be just as susceptible to icing over.

Hmm, as I said, I've never heard of any lights here ever having iced over. If it's not the hood design, one difference I noticed is that the light sets here are never suspended by a cable letting them swing with the wind, perhaps being more exposed to snowfall that way.

http://www.southeastroads.com/florida200/us-231_nb_at_7th_st.jpg


My typical local setup. Notice there are several lights (2-7) all set at a slightly different angle.



Here's a design that would certainly ice over easily. No idea where it comes from.
 
ShyFlyer
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:34 am



Quoting DXing (Reply 6):
sometimes a good old hot burning incandescent bulb is best suited for the job.

I've even seen those with a coating of ice/snow and I'm in the desert (kind of).

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 7):
So maybe they need to build little heating elements into the lenses?

That's a good idea. The power consumption would still be less overall, especially if the heating element is connected to a thermostat.
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Brick
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:47 am

ShyFlyer, are you a KQRS fan?
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ShyFlyer
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:57 am



Quoting Brick (Reply 11):
ShyFlyer, are you a KQRS fan?

I'm not sure what KQRS is, other than a radio station in Minnesota. So probably no?  Confused
I lift things up and put them down.
 
L-188
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:37 am

It isn't just streetlights.

When my brothers fire department was spec'ing out a new ambulance he made a big pitch to have incandecent tail and signal lights mounted on the vehicle. As mentioned the LED Tail lights just don't melt the snow off them.

And I consider the use as vehicle tail and marker lights a much bigger threat then the street lights.
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Tiger119
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:27 am



Quoting L-188 (Reply 13):
When my brothers fire department was spec'ing out a new ambulance he made a big pitch to have incandecent tail and signal lights mounted on the vehicle. As mentioned the LED Tail lights just don't melt the snow off them.

- The fire department in my city of residence purchased a new ladder and a new engine a few years ago and all the lights on both of them are LED and you can see them in bad weather. They have another new engine being built as we speak in Wisconsin and it is going to be all LED as well.

From HFY,

David
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dxing
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:10 pm



Quoting AverageUser (Reply 9):
Hmm, as I said, I've never heard of any lights here ever having iced over.

There's a lot of things I've never seen, doesn't mean they don't happen. sigh 

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 9):
If it's not the hood design, one difference I noticed is that the light sets here are never suspended by a cable letting them swing with the wind, perhaps being more exposed to snowfall that way.

Check the picture of the one in the story. I can't say for certain that is the light in question, but it is fixed.

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 9):
My typical local setup. Notice there are several lights (2-7) all set at a slightly different angle

Yep, 90 and 180 degrees! Fancy that! wink 

Part of the story was that the woman killed knew she had the light in her favor, the driver coming from the other side was the one who couldn't tell and just ignored it. So wind direction and speed would have a lot to do with this situation as would temperature and the type of percipitation.

Quoting ShyFlyer (Reply 10):
That's a good idea. The power consumption would still be less overall, especially if the heating element is connected to a thermostat.

How complicated can you make the mouse trap?  scratchchin 

Perhaps it would be better just to let people know what they've forgotten, if you're not sure, you stop.
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Kiwirob
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:24 pm



Quoting DocLightning (Reply 7):
So maybe they need to build little heating elements into the lenses? You just need to keep the temperature above 0°C.

You are talking about a very expensive solution, rather like the heating elements in a cars rear window, you would probably have to double the price.

Quoting L-188 (Reply 13):
When my brothers fire department was spec'ing out a new ambulance he made a big pitch to have incandecent tail and signal lights mounted on the vehicle. As mentioned the LED Tail lights just don't melt the snow off them.

I think that's a non issue, most cars these days are coming out with LED tail lights, the bigger problem is just plain old road dirt, LED or incendecent a dirty tail light isn't going to be easy to see. Plus LEDs light up considerably faster thus giving the person behind you that little bit extra warning that you are stopping, I would have thought safety would have been the main concern for an ambulance.
 
ShyFlyer
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:38 pm



Quoting DXing (Reply 15):
How complicated can you make the mouse trap? scratchchin

It really doesn't have to be complicated. I have a plug that my heat tape is plugged into that turns it on when temps dip below 35F, off when the temps rise above 40F.
I lift things up and put them down.
 
AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:53 pm



Quoting DXing (Reply 15):

There's a lot of things I've never seen, doesn't mean they don't happen.

I think the idea of comparisons is that the LED technology on one hand and snow & ice on the other are similar.

Quoting DXing (Reply 15):
Yep, 90 and 180 degrees! Fancy that!

No, that's the U.S. way of doing things, we set the lights fixed, each at sligthly different angles for the motorists. Often there are additional minisized sets for cars that need to have stopped away from the main lights, or for people riding on cycles.
 
Tiger119
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:08 am



Quoting Tiger119 (Reply 14):
The fire department in my city of residence purchased a new ladder and a new engine a few years ago and all the lights on both of them are LED and you can see them in bad weather. They have another new engine being built as we speak in Wisconsin and it is going to be all LED as well.

- I was thinking of this comment I added yesterday morning and it dawned on me. The reason why most LED-equiped emergency apparatus do not have much of a problem with ice forming around the lights is the equipment themselves sit in a heated apparatus bay when not on runs, so it there were ice on any part of the fire truck would be melted away in a matter of a few minutes. I still like the LED'd out equipment, much easily seen by other motorist and uses a lot less energy.

David
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dxing
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:38 pm



Quoting AverageUser (Reply 18):
No, that's the U.S. way of doing things

Any one who has traveled in the United States knows there is no "U.S." way of doing things. Every State is slightly different.

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 18):
we set the lights fixed, each at sligthly different angles for the motorists

In the picture provided are the lights not set a 180 degrees from each other across the intersection? Perhaps a few degrees off but generally? 90 degrees to the sides?

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 18):
Often there are additional minisized sets for cars that need to have stopped away from the main lights, or for people riding on cycles.

Fancy that, of course there are many places here in the State, where the traffic light was invented, where lights are set at angles due to curves in the road as well as for special situations such as railroad tracks and such.
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iairallie
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:47 pm



Quoting Lincoln (Reply 8):
But any moron who doesn't realize that if they aren't 100% sure they have a green light they shouldn't pretend that they do diserves what's coming to them.

Fine but what about the people they plow into like the lady in the story?
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AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:57 pm

Quoting DXing (Reply 20):
In the picture provided are the lights not set a 180 degrees from each other across the intersection? Perhaps a few degrees off but generally? 90 degrees to the sides?

There's no need to do that 0/90/180 setting, as there is never a high-set "box" that I've learned to associate with the U.S. traffic lights. All lights can and will be set at slightly different angles toward the different roads or streets, because our northern latitude guarantees us a lot of time when the sun (if any) will be shining low, and right on the lenses.
That fact will be very hard to capture on a picture, unless you ride slowly through the intersection and take a video at the same time.

Incidentally, with this discussion in fresh meory, I took a long bus ride today through the city. It has been rather cold, and snowing, and I had a good time to observe if there was anything amiss with the LEDs vs the conventional ones, as some intersections still employ both, mostly for the green. I could not see anything out of the ordinary.

[Edited 2009-12-21 08:59:59]
 
dxing
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:11 am



Quoting AverageUser (Reply 22):
There's no need to do that 0/90/180 setting, as there is never a high-set "box" that I've learned to associate with the U.S. traffic lights.

 rotfl  I am so tempted to take the time off to come over there and take pictures of all the street intersections that come to a + with no curves or bends and then display all the ones like the one you posted the picture of where the lights are basically 0-90-180 degrees opposite each other. Whether they are high or low makes no difference. They have to face within a few degrees of the center of the road for which they are controlling or confusion will reign as to whom the light is intended for. But go ahead and continue to deny the obvious if it makes you feel better at night.
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Pellegrine
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:30 am



Quoting Tiger119 (Reply 2):
Some of the comments by readers at the bottom of the page are right on, you can not blame a malfunctioning traffic signal (be the bulb out, power out totally to the intersection or the lenses obscured by foreign material) for an accident. Every state that I have ever driven in have provisions in their state statues that state (or something close to): if the traffic signal is malfunctioning, out or otherwise out of service drivers approaching said intersection MUST treat it as a four way stop. PERIOD. Now, a police officer can include a malfunctioning traffic signal in a crash report as a potential factor, but it can not be a cause of a crash. People amaze me sometimes (to this day).

Personally, I like the LED signals, they are definitely clearer especially during a weather event and I live in a city that gets some snow.

PERFECT example of how ******** the licensing requirements and standards are in the whole country. It is amazingly lax. I remember when I got my learner's permit and my provisional license, I was like............that's it? I did all this preparation for.....that. LOL. And it seems like at least 20% of the drivers on the road don't belong there.

Trust me. NO ONE KNOWS that you're legally supposed to stop in that situation. The only reason people will stop is because they don't want to get in an accident. You aren't taught that when you get licensed. And people don't use common sense.

So I've learned, after that, being hit by a stupid driver, and seeing stupid drivers and pedestrians, it really is every person for themselves. Look out.
oh boy, here we go!!!
 
AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:31 pm

Quoting DXing (Reply 23):
lights are basically 0-90-180 degrees opposite each other

I thought you would understand -- take your typical box -- there's no way you can fine-tune its angle the way its' done here. Or if there is, honestly be my guest to illustrate how.

Let's try a different approach: the lights will look upon you from as if they were security cameras pointed at the lines where people are supposed to be noticing the lights.

If they're scattered in poles around the intersection, all will point at a slightly different angle towards you.

If they're mounted high up, each row will be tilted down slightly differently towards you.

This synchronization of the foci is done in order to minimize the chance the low-shining sun would be shining the worst possible way at all the lenses simultaneously.

As I said, this arrangement will be subtle, and not visible in a casual photo. It does exist, however. The next thing I'm going to draw a picture. I would sum it up that here every intersection gets the treatment of separate lights that are tuneable and no box is ever used. (And thank you I think I grasped the idea that not every intersection is a straight angle intersection.)

[Edited 2009-12-22 07:04:53]
 
D L X
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:58 pm



Quoting Tiger119 (Reply 2):
Every state that I have ever driven in have provisions in their state statues that state (or something close to): if the traffic signal is malfunctioning, out or otherwise out of service drivers approaching said intersection MUST treat it as a four way stop. PERIOD.

Honestly, little burns me up more than people who think that if the traffic light is out, it means GO. I've even had people honk at me for stopping at a malfunctioning light. I wanted to get out and yell at them. But I took quiet comfort instead when they got into a fender bender when they ran the light.
 
lincoln
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:30 pm



Quoting Pellegrine (Reply 24):
You aren't taught that when you get licensed

What state were you licensed in? This was drilled over and over and over in when I learned to drive in California and was a question on both the California and Ohio written exams. Newscasters compuslively add the "and remember, if you're at an intersection where the traffic signals aren't operating treat it as a 4-way stop" admonition any time a malfunctioning traffic signal makes it to the traffic report.

Quoting AverageUser (Reply 25):
there's no way you can fine-tune its angle the way its' done here. Or if there is, honestly be my guest to illustrate how.

Maybe I don't understand the distinction, but the signal heads are essentially mounted on gimbals (not to mention being mounted to a round peice of pipe) -- it's quite possible (and quite normal) to adjust both the horizontal and vertical angles of the light. Usually ones mounted over traffic lanes are parallel to the centerline of the lane and tilted slightly down; those on the side of the road are generally vertically straight but angled (either slightly or dramatically depending on where in the US you are) twoards the center of either the outer lane or the roadway in general.

Now if you're suggesting that you can't individually adjust the angle of each indication (red, yellow, green) I can honestly say that I've never seen that done in the US-- but I also don't see how that would improve safety either.

Lincoln
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AverageUser
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:42 pm



Quoting Lincoln (Reply 27):
Usually ones mounted over traffic lanes are parallel to the centerline of the lane and tilted slightly down; those on the side of the road are generally vertically straight but angled (either slightly or dramatically depending on where in the US you are) twoards the center of either the outer lane or the roadway in general.

I suppose what you write is what DX was trying convey. Anyway, here's a set of photos I took just today.



Alignment in this direction....



... and in the other. The #2 light is staring right at me, notice the #4 minilight that would be pointing brightly to someone on the intersection's right lane.

And lastly a demonstration of the conventional and LED lights next to each other.

 
lincoln
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:52 pm



Quoting AverageUser (Reply 28):
I suppose what you write is what DX was trying convey. Anyway, here's a set of photos I took just today.

Usually the pitch isn't quite as severe as shown in your photos, but also usually the lights are placed further away from the "limit line" (where you're suposed to stop on red) -- I there are a few places, though, where I have seen them with that much or more tilt because the intersection was relatively narrow.

As far as multiple lights at intersections go... the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) -- if I recall correctly specifies that above traffic lanes signal faces must be spaced 8 feet / 2.4m apart which essentially means one head for every lane -- a 3 lane road would have 3 red lights overhead.

In the Western US (California in particular), it's virtually universal that there is also a signal head to the right and/or left of the roadway on the near side of the intersection at about 8 feet off the ground (similar, I suppose to your #3) however that practice is fairly rare in most of the Eastern US -- which annoys me because it makes it more dififcult to figure out what color the light is if, for example, you're behind a large truck.
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Brick
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RE: One Disadvantage W/using LED Traffic Signals

Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:25 am

Here's a news story about a device that can help with the snow buildup:

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/22049107/detail.html
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