North Dakota governor OKs ban on traffic-signal devices

| 4/7/2005

A bill in North Dakota that would outlaw the use of devices that can change some traffic signals from red to green from as far as 1,500 feet has been signed into law by Gov. John Hoeven.

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.

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

The new law, previously HB1096, is intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from using so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs. House and Senate lawmakers previously approved the measure by unanimous consent.

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.