Indiana lawmaker targets traffic-light changers

| 12/24/2003

An Indiana state lawmaker wants to increase penalties for buying or selling a device that can change some traffic signals from red to green.

State Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, is crafting a bill intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using Mobile Infrared Transmitters, or MIRT.

“For the average person to have it is ludicrous,” Wyss, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, told The Indianapolis Star. Wyss says a $10,000 fine and jail time might be appropriate. Under current law, violators can be fined $500.

The devices, which sit on a vehicle’s dash, are not regulated by current federal standards because they rely on a beam of light instead of a radio wave to trigger the light-changing mechanisms that have been attached to some intersections.

A traffic-light changer is designed to allow police, fire and other emergency officials to clear intersections before they approach. The device has been in use at intersections since the early 1970s.

A recent U.S. Department of Transportation survey showed the devices are in use at 26,500 intersections in 78 cities across the country. Indianapolis has devices in place at 225 intersections.