Man caught using device to change traffic signals

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - An electronic device meant to help paramedics and firefighters respond to emergencies faster has ended up in the wrong hands. WAVE 3's Mark Schnyder reports it is not illegal for anyone else to own the device, but it is illegal for anyone else to use it.

It is called a mobile infrared electronic transmitter. It can change a red light to a green light at many major intersections. A man in Elizabethtown was apparently using one and just got caught.

You can buy them or learn how to build them online, but since 2005 mobile infrared electronic transmitters have been illegal in Kentucky.  What kind of person would do this anyway?

"He has an ego problem, worried about himself and nobody else," suggests Elizabethtown Fire Chief Mike Hulsey. "I've got to get through this intersection; I don't care about anyone else."

Elizabethtown firefighters have been aware for a while at least one driver out there was messing with the lights.

"We were getting complaints from citizens saying we were using them just to get through intersections and there wasn't no emergencies going on so we knew someone had one," says Hulsey.

Finally, the other day a fire safety officer caught a guy in the act. He immediately called police and the cops gave 55-year old Larry Ticer the green light to appear in court where he'll face up to a $500 fine.

"Someone like this who has one of those emitters in their vehicle and they're going around town and they're going around to each intersection turning it on and they're getting control of their intersection it hinders us from getting through the intersection," says Don Howard of Hardin County EMS.

EMS responders caution anyone else with a mobile infrared electronic transmitter to stop using it. It's for them, not us.

"It helps get the intersection clear for us," says Howard.

If there is an emergency and someone is changing the signals while paramedics are trying to do the same, it could cost someone a lot more than $500.

"If they have these devices, please don't use them because they could jeopardize someone's life," says Howard.

Chief Hulsey says he was part of a group that lobbied for the law prohibiting these devices. While the maximum fine is $500, if someone changing lights illegally causes a crash, they could go to jail.