By Cheryl Higley
Private snow contractors accustomed to driving down the street with their strobes or light bar flashing might want to reconsider. Chances are you’re breaking the law.
Bob Smart, CSP, owner of Olmsted Falls, OH-based SmartScapes, called from the field during a recent snow event and reported police told him they were going to start ticketing contractors who violated the ordinance.
“Seems like every time I see a plow truck driving, it has its flashers going. Police are getting frustrated,” Smart said.
A random survey of legislative codes across North America confirmed that regulations on the use of strobe lighting on snowplow vehicles are governed by states and/or local municipality ordinance. In every code we checked, private snow vehicles are prohibited from utilizing strobe or flashing lights while traveling on the roadway – unless operating on behalf of a municipality.
In most areas of North America, this truck would be violating local ordinances that prohibit private contractors from using strobe lighting on public streets.
Some suggestions to ensure your company is in compliance:
- If you don’t know the law, check with your local police department on what is allowed. Most violations are misdemeanors, but if police start ticketing, those fines can add up quickly.
- Know your colors. Some laws not only regulate the use of the lighting but also the color of lights that can be used on private snow vehicles. There is more variability when it comes to color, but amber seems to be the predominant rule. Many states in recent years have changed light colors, flash patterns, etc., in order to keep the public from being desensitized to flashing lights.
- Outfit your truck properly. Know what lights are required to ensure your plow vehicle is in compliance, including backup lights, license plate illumination, plow lights, etc.
- Many light fixtures come equipped with switches that allow plow drivers to easily shut off the lights when leaving a site and traveling into the public domain.
- Add proper light use into your safety team’s toolbox talk and/or operator’s manual.