A bill in the Massachusetts Legislature 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
some drivers have managed to purchase them on the Internet for less than a
couple of hundred dollars.
Sponsored by Rep. Timothy Toomey Jr., D-Cambridge, the bill
is intended to deter anyone other than public safety and transit agencies from
buying, selling or using the so-called mobile infrared transmitters, or MIRTs.
Violators would face a fine ranging from $100 to $500 with at least a 30-day
driver’s license suspension.
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.
The bill – H2127 – is in the Joint Transportation Committee.