Gilbert police gain tool to turn traffic lights - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert police gain tool to turn traffic lights

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Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2008 6:18 pm | Updated: 11:23 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Gilbert police will be the first law enforcement agency in Arizona to equip its cars with a device that turns traffic signals green.

The Town Council gave its approval to install the signal interrupters into all of the town's police cars last week after a six-month trial showed that they decreased response times and improved safety.

The town's fire department has been using the devices for several years, and Gilbert police voiced that they also wanted them in their fleet.

"We're also first responders," Sgt. Andrew Duncan said. "I've gone to enough emergencies to know how frustrating it can be when you want to get there to help and you get tied up."

Police cars will only use the interrupters when responding to emergencies in "code 3," or when they turn on lights and sirens. The devices work by flashing a strobe that's picked up by traffic signals.

Even with the interrupters, police policy requires officers to use caution when entering an intersection.

The town tested the devices in about 20 of Gilbert's police cars. The interrupters will be installed in all cars, officials said.

The total cost to add all of the devices is about $77,000, town records show.

One of the main concerns about the interrupters was the assumption that they cause crashes. Also, town traffic engineers opposed them because it takes more than five minutes for an intersection to get back on a regular cycle after one is used.

Officials said there were no collisions during the test period, and several town leaders said that a few minutes of sluggish traffic is worth it if the devices improve response times.

However, Councilman Don Skousen voted against the interrupters. His concern was that no other departments use them.

But others think the reservations are misplaced.

"Some people said we should study it more and that no one else is doing it," Councilman Dave Crozier said. "Well, we were the first to have black-and -white police cars, and look how that caught on."

"Ill bet - no, I'll guarantee a paycheck - that other departments start jumping at this," Crozier said.

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