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Here’s how emergency vehicles change traffic lights on the fly

Trooper Steve answers viewer questions

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answers viewer questions about the rules of the road, helping Orlando-area residents become better drivers by being better educated.

The most recent viewer question was, “Can emergency vehicles change traffic lights?”

Yes. Here’s some background.

“It was in my rookie days of being a state trooper in Orlando when I first realized it can be pretty cool to be a firefighter,” Trooper Steve said. “I was on my way to a crash and running my lights and sirens to the scene. As I approached an intersection, I was caught up in a lot of traffic. The traffic light was red and the cars were having trouble getting out of my way. I could see about a block behind me there was a fire truck and an ambulance approaching me. Suddenly, the light turned green and all the other approaching travel lanes went to red.”

Trooper Steve said he was befuddled.

“I thought this could not have been simply a coincidence. Traffic cleared and we all continued to the same call,” he said. “When we got on scene, I asked the crew on the fire truck if they had changed the traffic light, thinking that I was making a joke, but to my surprise they educated me fairly quickly.”

Trooper Steve said the firefighters explained that there was a device not only on their firetruck, and also on the rescue vehicle, that displayed a light that communicates with the traffic signal, turning it green for the direction that they were traveling.

He said the device is called Opticom. It displays a rapid strobe light that is coded to communicate with most traffic light systems.

“If you ever catch yourself at a traffic light that is red and it turns green while an emergency vehicle is approaching you from behind, proceed through the green light and then move out of their way,” Trooper Steve said.

If you have a question for Trooper Steve, submit it here.


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