Kansas lawmaker wants to ban red-light changers

| 1/20/2004

A Kansas state representative wants his state to join the list of those banning devices that allow drivers to change traffic lights from red to green.

Rep. David Huff, R-Lenexa, has introduced a bill that would not only ban the sale or purchase of the devices, called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRT – it would make it illegal to even possess one.

Under the bill, a violation would be a misdemeanor. However, if a person using a MIRT caused an accident that resulted in injury to another person or damage to property, the offense would become a felony.

Huff’s bill does allow emergency vehicles to use the devices; they were originally intended for that purpose, but have become available to the general public over the Internet in recent years. Federal law does not control them since they use infrared light, not federally regulated radio waves, to force traffic signals to change.

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

Legislators in several other states have introduced bills similar to Huff’s proposal. In Kentucky, State Rep. John Vincent, R-Ashland, has drafted a bill intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using mobile infrared transmitters. In Rhode Island, State Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick, has introduced a similar measure.

In addition, similar proposals have been introduced in California, Indiana, Virginia and Alaska.

The Kansas bill, HB2522, was introduced Jan. 14. It has been referred to the House Transportation Committee, of which Huff is a member.