Traffic-light changers banned in Texas

| 7/6/2005

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed a bill into law outlawing 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 less than a couple of hundred dollars.

The new law, previously HB364, is intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from possessing mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs.

“Infrared transmitters with the capability of changing traffic lights have become accessible to the general public via the Internet and other avenues,” Rep. Glen Hegar, R-Katy, said in a written statement. “This bill will directly address this problem and save lives by preventing dangerous situations on Texas roads and intersections.”

Violators could face a $500 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 device has been in use at intersections since the early 1970s.