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Troy, N.Y. -  5/6/2010

LED beacon lights on maintenance trucks are safe, economical alternatives to traditional rotating beacons

Nick Skinner adjusts an LED beacon on top of a carThe next time you drive past a construction zone on a highway, you may notice that more highway maintenance trucks are using light emitting diode (LED) flashing beacons instead of traditional incandescent rotating beacons. A recent study by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC), sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), has shown that LED beacon lights use less power without compromising safety.
Traditional incandescent beacons have relatively high wattages, which would drain the truck’s battery of power. LED beacon lights provide an energy-efficient alternative. As lead LRC researcher John Bullough commented, “With LEDs, truck engines can be turned off while the beacon lights are on, which conserves energy, decreases the amount of environmental toxins being put into the air from exhaust fumes, and saves transportation agencies money.”
The report confirms that maintenance vehicles can safely use LED beacons without affecting response times for approaching drivers. Researchers also compared the LED systems to conventional rotating beacons in terms of the distance at which observers could detect that a vehicle had moved closer to the observer. “The longer the detection distance, the more time drivers have to respond,” said Bullough. Results showed that LED beacon lights provided equivalent closure detection distances as conventional beacons, as long as the LED lights were used in pairs as the rotating beacons are currently used on NYSDOT maintenance trucks.
The report, "Evaluation of Light Emitting Diode Beacon Light Fixtures," can be found in its entirety on the NYSDOT website at:

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, energy efficiency, and plant pathology. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America's first technological research university. The university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science "to the common purposes of life."