COLUMBUS -- Taking a cue from the comic book superhero who uses green light to protect the people of Earth, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is hoping a Green Lantern will protect its snowplows from a dangerous spike in crashes this season.

Only one month into this year's winter weather -- and at least three more months to go -- the number of crashes involving drivers hitting ODOT snowplows has already surpassed last year's total. So far there have been 63 crashes statewide, compared to 57 all of last winter.

As part of the department's legislative requests for the 2012-2013 State Transportation Budget, ODOT is proposing the use of green lanterns -- flashing LED lights placed atop snow removal equipment -- as a way to help snowplows be seen better on the highway.

Currently, Ohio Revised Code only allows ODOT to use yellow flashing lights, commonly shared by other non-emergency vehicles such as tow trucks and mail delivery vehicles. Research indicates that green lights have a better visibility in snowy, wintery conditions.

Snowplows travel below the posted speed limit. According to ODOT's safety experts, many of these crashes are caused by drivers who don't anticipate how fast they will approach the slower-moving plow -- crashing into the back of the truck.

In other crashes, drivers have difficulty seeing through the cloud created as the plow clears ice and snow from the highway. Both types of crashes are often severe and have led to serious injuries and fatalities.

By increasing visibility, the green lanterns should help motorists spot snowplows sooner -- even in the darkest and snowiest conditions -- and give drivers ample time to slow down and avoid the potential of a crash.

With a change in administration next month, the final decision on whether to allow ODOT to use green lanterns will be decided by the incoming Governor and new legislature. The change wouldn't go into effect until next winter season.

Until then, ODOT reminds motorists to DON'T CROWD THE PLOW and offers these safety precautions:

* Keep Your Distance: Give snowplows room to work. The plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder. Don't tailgate and try not to pass.

* Beware of the Snow Cloud: If you pass a snowplow, take extreme caution. The plow often creates a cloud of snow and ice which can be hard to see through.

* See and Be Seen: Because the equipment is so large, a snowplow operator's field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they don't always see you. Keep your distance and watch for sudden stops.

For more winter driving tips and current road conditions, log on to -- ODOT's premier website for travel information -- and click on the orange "Ice and Snow ... Take It Slow" icon.