Traffic-light cheats target of Indiana bill

| Monday, February 02, 2004

The Indiana Senate unanimously approved a bill that would outlaw a device 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, according to published reports.

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

The Senate voted 48-0 Jan. 26 to advance the measure intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRT. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Under SB217, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, a person caught buying, selling or using the device could be fined $10,000.

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.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH, recently introduced a bill in Congress prohibiting the sale or possession of the signal changers. His bill reportedly would make the sale of the transmitter to unauthorized users illegal with a fine up to $10,000 and possible jail time.

Similar proposals have also been introduced in about a dozen state legislatures around the country.