Rhode Island bill targets traffic-light cheats

| 1/14/2004

A bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly would outlaw the sale or use of devices that can change some traffic signals from red to green.

State Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick, has introduced a measure intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using Mobile Infrared Transmitters, or MIRT.

Under H7119, a person caught selling or using the devices could 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.

Traffic-light changers are designed to allow police, fire and other emergency officials to clear intersections before they approach. The devices have 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.

Similar proposals have also been introduced in other state legislatures, including California, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia and Alaska.