Research keeping VSP troopers safer during roadside traffic stops

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 3:18 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - New Virginia State Police vehicles are equipped with a light package featuring the traditional blue lights and are now adding in some red.

“Any additional security that you feel like you can get, we’ll take it any way we can,” Senior Trooper for VSP Brett Southern said. “If it’s changing our lights from blue to red, I don’t see any issue with that at all.”

“We’re looking at an improvement of probably about 150 to 200 meters of when people would change lanes, and their percentage of lane change also went higher,” Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Ronald Gibbons said.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute started researching in 2014 what lights would be best for police. The institute found drivers noticed the red lights two to three seconds earlier than cars with only blue lights.

“The red light really makes a difference during the daytime, particularly when the vehicle would appear against the sky, because the blue light would disappear against the sky, so the red really showed up as a benefit,” Gibbons said.

For state troopers like Brett Southern, the new lights could end up being be the difference between life and death on the highway.

“Every traffic stop’s dangerous,” Southern said. “I mean, we’re six to seven inches away from traffic going by us at a minimum of probably 55 miles an hour.”

You might be able to see the red lights on the road now, as new patrol cars are being added with the red lights.

“If you start paying attention to vehicles out there on the roadway at the state police, you’ll notice some red in addition to the blue already today, and then of course, as this rolls out further, you’ll see it possibly even in other vehicles as we continue to learn where different lighting patterns might improve the visibility of vehicles out there on the roadway, especially for first responders,” Executive Director of VTTI Zac Doerzaph said.

“We’re giving the trooper probably another two to three seconds of visibility so by providing that, it gives people time to react, gives people time to do the right thing and to make make people aware of where the trooper is, and that’s really our goal, so that two to three seconds makes a significant impact on the choices people are making,” Gibbons said.