Minnesota House passes ban on traffic-signal device

| 4/30/2004

The Minnesota House unanimously approved a measure that would outlaw the use of a device that can change some traffic signals from red to green. It has been forward to the Senate for further consideration.

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 changer themselves.

HF1683, sponsored by Rep. Steve Strachan, R-Farmington, is intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRT.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Strachan said in a statement. “You can’t have everyone free to flip a switch and turn the lights to green. The potential for accidents is huge.”

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.