South Carolina bill seeks ban on traffic-signal changers

| 1/19/2005

The South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing legislation to outlaw devices 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 drivers have managed to purchase them on the Internet for a couple of hundred dollars.

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

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Herb Kirsh, D-Clover, is intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using, selling or buying so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs.

The proposal – H3046 – calls for violators to face up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to one year in prison.

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.

The device has been in use at intersections since the early 1970s.

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