Traffic-light changers targeted in Minnesota

| 1/26/2005

Lawmakers in Minnesota have introduced legislation that would 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 drivers can purchase them on the Internet for a couple of hundred dollars.

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

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-North St. Paul, the proposals call for violators to face up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

The measures are intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using and/or possessing so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs.

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.

HF204 and SF7 are before their respective Transportation committees.