Kentucky governor signs traffic-light changer bill

| 3/22/2005

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 intersection.

The light-changing mechanisms have been in use at intersections since the early 1970s.