Gov. Ernie Fletcher has approved a bill that would outlaw
the use of devices in Kentucky that can change some traffic signals from red to
green from as far away as 1,500 feet.
Traffic-light changers are 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 less than a
couple of hundred dollars.
The new law, previously HB17, is intended to deter anyone
other than public safety and transit agencies from using so-called mobile
infrared transmitters, or MIRTs.
A person caught using such a device could be fined up to
$500. A person involved in an accident resulting in injuries while using the
device could face up to one year in prison in addition to a fine.
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.
When a signal changer on a traffic light detects an
approaching emergency vehicle equipped with the device, the light responds
accordingly. If the light is red, the signal changer will immediately give
vehicles in other directions a yellow light, followed by a red light. The
emergency vehicle will get a green light until it passes through the
The light-changing mechanisms have been in use at intersections
since the early 1970s.