Driving in the snow can be a dangerous task, with slick roads and limited visibility, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation is testing technology that would help motorists know what lies ahead.

MnDOT snowplows on Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota are testing technology that activates digital highway signs to warn motorists when slow-moving the vehicles are ahead on the road.

If successfully implemented, it could improve highway safety by providing motorists information when they are likely to be approaching a slow-moving state maintenance vehicle.  Once the snowplows activate a digital sign, a message would appear stating: “Snowplow ahead, use caution." This warning improves safety by increasing awareness.

MnDOT says data from the past few years shows that many crashes involving snowplows were rear-end collisions when motorists strike the back of the snowplow. This is because snowplows can create “snow clouds” when clearing roads at slower speeds.

“Alerting motorists that they’re approaching a slow-moving snowplow can improve safety for our operators and motorists,” said Ron Heim, MnDOT maintenance supervisor in Owatonna. “MnDOT is focused on safety and we think this use of technology will help everyone on the road.”

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Currently, ten MnDOT snowplows on I-35 from Iowa to Northfield are outfitted with technology to activate digital message signs as they pass. Warning signs can also be used at other times of year for uses such as maintenance work when crews are repairing high-tension cable median guard or striping roads.

If the current testing in the southern part of the state is successful, it would safe to assume that more snowplows would be equipped with this technology across Minnesota to help provide an additional safety measure for motorists. You can click here to learn more about the technology behind this program.

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