Know the Law: Snow Plows Get Green Flashing Lights

Posted at 2:17 PM, Jan 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-08 14:17:45-05

Perhaps you’ve noticed that many of the snow plows clearing Michigan’s roadways this winter have green flashing lights. These green lights are new, and are allowed under a relatively new law that’s aimed at reducing the number of collisions between snow plows and motor vehicles.

In Michigan, there are more than 1,000 plows on the roads during the winter months and, unfortunately, accidents do happen. Because plows can weigh 50,000-90,000 pounds when fully loaded with salt, if you’re in a collision with a plow, the results can be devastating.

Notably, the green lights on snow plows differ from the amber flashing lights that motorists are used to seeing on emergency and other road maintenance vehicles. This is on purpose, giving snow plows a unique look that separates them from other road-work vehicles.

However, the green flashing lights are not only intended to help reduce collisions. The lights also warn motorists to give snow plows sufficient space to do their job.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and many counties across the state have already installed the green lights on plows, hoping to make the equipment more visible to motorists. In fact, Kent County began testing green lights on its plows in 2014. The new lights cost $100-$400 per plow and most counties have said it’s worth the cost, if it helps promote safety on the roadways.

What if you’re in a collision with a snow plow – are you entitled to no-fault benefits if you’re injured? The simple answer is yes, your no-fault insurance carrier should cover any injuries you sustain. However, bringing a separate negligence suit against the state, county or city for damages beyond what insurance covers may be difficult because of a concept called “governmental immunity.”

Governmental immunity is a defense that protects government workers, such as state, county or city snow plow drivers, from being sued for injuries they cause while doing their jobs. In most cases, a government-employed snow plow driver may only be held responsible for someone’s injuries if the plow driver was grossly negligent – and that can be difficult to prove.