Traffic Light Switchers

Imagine being able to cruise through rush hour traffic by changing all the red lights on your route home from red to green. Firefighters count on that infrared technology to get to fires and accidents more quickly, but now the transmitters are popping up for sale and winding up in more and more private cars.

When Tallahassee firefighters head out on a call they're able to use infrared transmitters called "pre-empters" to change traffic lights and speed them toward the scene more quickly.

"What this has allowed us to do is improve our response times a little bit by having those greens in our direction of travel and reds for the other motorists.”

But it's not just firefighters, more and more motorists are buying the transmitters on the Internet. So imagine it, you're stuck in Tallahassee traffic and you could change the light, just like you open the garage door. A quick visit online found two of the dashboard devices up for sale on Ebay. One for $700 dollars urges bidders to check their state and local laws, the other just lists an opening bid of $350.

Almost all Tallahassee intersections are outfitted with receivers, at least 285 of them. So does that mean drivers with these transmitters could cause gridlock and confusion? Not according to city traffic engineers.

"The system we have has 30,000 codes and you'd have to know one of the 56 codes we use in Tallahassee to operate it and change our traffic lights."

Tallahassee firefighters say the "pre-empters" have definitely improved their response time. They hope the technology remains only in the hands of those saving lives, not those saving time.

Right now, Florida does not have any laws expressly prohibiting the mobile infrared transmitters. Some states are working to change that.


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