For police officers who spend most of their shifts on the side of the road as traffic zooms by at high speeds, inches can be the difference between life and death.
While many states and localities have laws that require drivers to change lanes in order to avoid officers conducting a traffic stop, visibility has always been a big problem.
Now the New York State Police are testing a new “secret weapon”: a seemingly normal light bar that transforms into a vertical display, alerting drivers even farther away that they need to begin paying attention.
The new light bars are only on a few cruisers at this point, but officials hope to expand the program if it shows success.
The device remains as a typical horizontal bar until an officer activates it, at which point it rotates two arms upward.
Without the light bars, drivers appear to not notice police vehicles belonging to the New York State Police until it’s too late. Stopped cruisers that have been trashed by others on the road appear to be a common staple of the force’s social media posts.
This is why you MOVE OVER.
Our Trooper is lucky to be okay after his patrol car was hit by a tractor trailer on State Route 17.
The truck driver did not stop, but was eventually located and charged with DWI. pic.twitter.com/eDI1ffvjQS
— NewYorkStatePolice (@nyspolice) November 20, 2019
First responders and others working on roads know the danger of traffic all too well.
“It’s incredibly dangerous on the side of the roadway, and most of the people don’t have any idea because they’ve never been on the side of the road and if they have it’s only been for moments,” Trooper Mark O’Donnell told WHEC-TV in Rochester.
“But the police officers, the fireman, the EMS people, it’s their 8 to 12-hour shift is in the roadway or on the side of the road so give us a break.”
Although these new devices appear to be normal light bars at first glance, a single button transforms them into a potentially life-saving configuration.
The concept is fairly simple — a taller light bar means stopped cop cars are more visible at greater distances.
On roadways with high speed limits where reaction time is everything, the extra few seconds could mean the difference between a trooper going home at the end of the day or being sent to the hospital — or worse.
If the program is a success, it’s likely these new lights will become a common sight on the tops of police department equipment across the nation.
For officers serving their communities every day, the improvement likely can’t come soon enough.
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