Missouri targets traffic signal changers

| 1/21/2004

Missouri has joined the growing list of states to pursue legislation that would outlaw controllers that can change some traffic signals from red to green.

A traffic-light changer is designed to allow police, fire and other emergency officials to clear intersections before they approach. But some impatient drivers have managed to purchase them on the Internet for as low as $100, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

People can even buy kits and build the signal changer themselves.

Measures targeting the devices have been introduced in several state legislatures including Alaska, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky. Two such bills have been introduced in the Missouri Legislature.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, would make the possession or use of Mobile Infrared Transmitters, or MIRT, by anyone except emergency personnel a Class A misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. HB1052 would also ban selling a transmitter to non-emergency personnel.

State Rep. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has sponsored similar legislation – HB1060 – that would also make possession of the device a Class A misdemeanor.

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