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New LED 'Snow Cone' Traffic Light Fix Shows Promise

DENVER (CBS4)- A new invention from a Colorado man, aimed at helping save lives and stop accidents from happening, is showing promise according to traffic engineers around the Denver metro area. It's a cone shaped lens for LED traffic lights.

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The device was invented by Chris Bichon, a soft-spoken engineer who was partly inspired by a CBS4 investigation into LED lights.

"I wouldn't be doing all this work and putting money into it if I didn't think it could save someone's life," said Bichon.

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Chris Bichon (credit: CBS)

LED lights have been installed at intersections around Colorado- and around the country- as a way of saving on energy costs. But an unforeseen impact: since the energy saving lights don't emit heat, during snowstorms, they quickly become caked with snow and ice and drivers can't see the signals and can't tell if they should stop or go. The problem has caused accidents- and at least one death.

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Bichon saw a CBS4 Investigation of the issue in 2017. As a Colorado Department of Transportation signal engineer, he had seen the problem first hand. He redoubled his efforts to find a solution and came up with a cone shaped lens to cover the LED lights.

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The City of Loveland bought three to try out, Longmont bought one and Parker and Douglas County also bought Bichon's "snow cone" lenses to see if they would help. The cities and counties had the new lenses installed in time for the Bomb Cyclone blizzard that hit the metro area. All say they saw encouraging results.

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Loveland traffic engineer Bill Hange said over the years, the city has tried four or five remedies for the problem but none have really worked, until Bichon's invention.

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"It performed really well. Better than anything we've tried", said Hange. "They're the top thing we've seen so far."

He said Loveland will likely order more of the devices.

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In Longmont, city traffic tech Mike Olney told CBS4, "It worked really well. I think it has a chance to save a lot of accidents from happening. He has a winner for sure."

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Andy Anderson, a spokesman for the town of Parker, told CBS4, "The initial observations from our Traffic Division were positive. We installed them at three intersections side-by-side with some other proven snow melting signal faces. They appeared to keep the faces clear enough to maintain visibility. There did seem to be a significant improvement over standard LED faces. We still need to see how these hold up long term, but our staff is encouraged by what they've seen so far."

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Bichon said, "It's kind of an American dream. If you want to do something you still can in America. You can still have that patent-able idea and make it happen."

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