Traffic light changers against the law in Michigan, agency says

| 11/3/2003

Infrared traffic-signal controllers sold over the Internet are illegal in Michigan, the state's Department of Transportation announced recently.

The devices are designed to take advantage of a traffic signal function meant for use by emergency response personnel. Firefighters have the devices on their trucks so as they approach intersections, the light will change to green and allow the fire truck to arrive more quickly at the site of an emergency.

However, recently, the devices have become available to the public through certain Internet sites, some of which cater to motorcycle enthusiasts.

MDOT officials conducted research to determine whether the devices were legal in Michigan. On Oct. 29, the agency released a statement that under a 1949 law forbidding interfering with a traffic signal, they are against the law. The agency now wants the Legislature to take further action.

"We support the proper use of these devices by first responders in appropriate situations, and we look forward to working with the Legislature in making prohibitions on these devices more explicit and the penalties for their illegal use much tougher." Transportation Director Gloria J. Jeff said in a statement. "While banning their use is fine as far as it goes, at the end of the day improper ownership and use of these devices presents a serious public safety threat that is not adequately addressed by the threat of a civil fine and confiscation, which is the current penalty."

The Detroit News reported Oct. 31 that State Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi, D-Farmington Hills, had proposed a bill to make the use or sale of the devices a felony. In addition, the purchase, possession or use of traffic-light changers would be against the law under a bill proposed by Michigan Sens. Tony Stamas, R-Midland, and Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac.