Ohio moves to ban traffic-signal changers

| 12/15/2004

Ohio state senators have advanced legislation that would prohibit devices that can change some traffic signals from red to green.

A bill banning the devices has been sent back to the House for final approval before heading to Gov. Bob Taft.

A traffic-light changer is designed to allow police, fire and other emergency officials to clear intersections before they approach. But some drivers have managed to purchase them on the Internet for as low as $300, The Toledo Blade reported recently.

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

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wagner, R-Sycamore, would ban the possession or use of so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs, by anyone other than public safety officers.

Under the proposal – HB406 – unauthorized possession of the devices could result in a fine up to $250 and/or up to 30 days in jail. Actual use of such a device could cost the offender as much as $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail under the provisions in the bill.

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 installed at 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.

Traffic lights in 35 Ohio cities, townships and villages are rigged for use with the devices, the newspaper reported.