• Tech Tech

This winter, Idaho's drivers will be a little safer thanks to a genius invention — and soon, it may be used by 'transit agencies all throughout the country'

"This summer, we took a step to tackle a problem."

"This summer, we took a step to tackle a problem."

Photo Credit: Facebook

For many of us, the term "snow cone" likely elicits images of a white paper cup, shaved ice, and fruit-flavored syrup. 

The Idaho Transportation Department, however, is giving the term a new meaning, and while it may not bring joy to people on a hot summer day, it will keep them safe during winter's icy months. 

As reported by WRRV, the ITD recently unveiled an invention called "snow cones" that it hopes will keep traffic lights visible when snow accumulates. 

"This summer, we took a step to tackle a problem - traffic signals obscured by snow!" the department wrote in a Facebook post in September. "These specially designed cones we ordered let wind pass through, blowing away snow and allowing you to see the light colors even when it piles up."

The traffic light cones they ordered were from a company called Snow Proof Signals, which was founded by a Colorado Department of Transportation employee, Chris Bichon, who found himself observing problems with the default equipment on the job and tinkering with potential solutions in his spare time, per CBS News. In 2017, a Colorado CBS station investigation into problems with obscured traffic lights "lit a fire" under Bichon to increase his efforts to solve the problem with a company of his own.

"It's a national problem, and people all over the country are having an issue with it," Bichon said. "... I wouldn't be doing all this work and putting all this money into it if I didn't think this could save someone's life."

Winter driving — for example, in snow squalls that elicited a warning for New York drivers ahead of Thanksgiving — is treacherous enough, and worrying about whether traffic lights are visible shouldn't add to the stress. 

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, "over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually," and "every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet."

As our planet continues to suffer the effects of human-caused pollution, extreme weather events, including cold snaps and severe winter storms, are only going to become more common, leading drivers to deal with more snow than they're likely used to.

New York-based WRRV lauded the snow cones, hoping the invention would make its way to the Empire State. 

"These snow-proof clear visors help improve visibility during snowy conditions and are not unique to Idaho, but are being used by transit agencies all throughout the country," it reported the ITD said.

Transportation itself is a top cause of rising global temperatures that are leading to more extreme cold weather, making roads less safe for drivers. Passenger cars produce around 3.3 billion tons of global carbon pollution annually, and a typical vehicle produces over 10,000 pounds of carbon pollution per year alone. 

Changing the way we get around can help mitigate the effects of our rapidly changing planet, but in the meantime, these winter snow cones can help ensure you live to enjoy the sweet summer treat with which they share a name. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to provide the name of the company that designed and supplied the cones, as well as more information about what led to their invention.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider