Safety in the snow

In the Snow Belt states, low-visibility conditions such as fog, rain, snow

and darkness can make snowplowing and driving near snowplows dangerous.

From 1991 to 1997, Minnesota experienced an annual average of 37 rear-end

collisions with snowplows.

To make roads safer for snowplows and cars, the Minnesota Department

of Transportation and the University of Minnesota are testing technologies

that mount directly into the snowplow cabs. For example, even when a snowplow

driver can't see the road, positioning information from the differential

Global Positioning System and magnetic tape placed at known locations on

a road produces a visual representation of the road on a heads-up display.

Minnesota's DOT plans to put the system on four more snowplows, a sheriff's

car and an ambulance this fall. While testing a heads-up display at the

University of Minnesota, drivers were able to drive 45 mph when they could

not see the road.

Other technologies may be added later, such as automatic vehicle location.

The snowplows of the future may collect data for other agencies, such as

the Environmental Protection Agency, which may want to monitor how much

sand is dumped on roads.

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