• Connect

How to optimize roadway lighting for winter weather

roadway lighting in snow

Frigid temperatures, gusty wind and snow showers blanket many parts of the country during the winter months. Tackling the road in snowy conditions is no easy feat, and safety concerns are real; we spoke with Nick Chintala, business development manager at Eaton’s Lighting Division, about roadway lighting concerns in wintry weather.

Improving driver and pedestrian safety 

Modern lighting technology is improving driver and pedestrian safety on the roads in winter weather.

Solid-state broad-spectrum lighting offers a higher CRI (>70 CRI) and better visibility than high-pressure sodium lighting, which yields a low CRI (<25) and distorts the driving environment.

Solid-state broad-spectrum lighting utilizes higher CCT (typically 3,000K to 6,000K) and CRI (>70) products; these conditions offer improved roadway visibility and object detection compared to high-pressure sodium lamp sources. Low-CRI light sources can distort the environment compared to applications illuminated with high-CRI light sources. 

“Compared to legacy HID lamp technology such as high-pressure sodium lights at 2,000K CCT, vehicle and pedestrian detection improve under broad-spectrum lighting with a color temperature of 4,000K,” Chintala said.

LEDs and colder climates 

LEDs are a great choice for roadway lighting in areas that frequently get snow.

“LED systems that are designed with both proper horizontal and veiling luminance yield excellent object detection and contrast for drivers in snowy conditions,” Chintala said. “The reflective property of light scattered on snow-covered surfaces can increase the ambient light level and brighten the application appearance.”

A common question is whether LEDs are ideal for traffic and streetlights because of their inability to melt snow. 

“Roadway luminaires are typically horizontal-oriented optical systems that are shielded from ice and snow,” Chintala said. “Interference is rarely a concern if luminaires are properly designed.”

Similar concerns exist regarding the lighting of parking lots and other outdoor spaces. Parking lots and roadways are often cleared of snow, but the ambient light level of the environment is increased due to the reflective properties of white surfaces. LEDs can adjust to these light levels to make the environment safer for pedestrians and drivers.

LEDs are a fantastic choice for boosting visibility and keeping roadways safer during the harshest months of the year. Strong lighting design and appropriate color temperature are key to creating the best conditions for roadways when winter weather strikes.

The Lighting reSource