Wouldn't every Salt Lake motorist like to try out the device city Fire Department officials are testing for the next 90 days.
Firefighters at Station No. 5, 1023 E. Ninth South, Thursday demonstrated the Opticom Priority Control System - a system that enables crews to turn red traffic lights to green as they speed to local emergencies.The system, however, isn't for ordinary drivers looking for a quick way through a stop light. It's to help firefighters arrive more quickly and safely at the scene of an emergency, said Battalion Chief George Sumner.
"This will speed our response time and it could eliminate intersection accidents," Sumner said.
The system consists of a strobe light mounted atop Station 5 trucks and electronic receiving devices installed in two nearby intersections at 9th South and Ninth East, and 9th South and Seventh East, explained Wayne Collins, spokesman for 3M, the system's manufacturer.
Once a truck receives a call to a fire, a firefighter triggers the strobe, sending a light signal to the receiving devices connected to the traffic semaphore, Collins said.
The traffic light receives the signal and either freezes a green light for the oncoming fire truck or turns opposing lights first yellow and then red, enabling oncoming traffic to safely stop, he said.
The process shaves as much as 23 percent from response times, Collins said, which for most Salt Lake fire stations is four minutes. In some cities, the system has virtually eliminated traffic accidents involving fire trucks at intersections.
An average of 16 traffic accidents involving emergency vehicles at intersections occur every month in the United States, Collins said, noting that 21 percent of all firefighter deaths result from traffic accidents.
Salt Lake City is only testing the device and is still evaluating the feasibility of implementing the system on a permanent basis, Sumner said.
"We feel very fortunate to have this for the 90-day test trial period," he said. The city is currently seeking funding assistance from the state to pay for the system, which costs roughly $3,000 per intersection.
In the long run, the system could maintain response time at present levels and expand coverage for a single fire station, Sumner said.
Only two intersections on Ninth South are currently outfitted with the device. Were the city to employ the system, it would likely do so only on streets designated as fire truck routes, Sumner said.
Opticom technology has been available for 20 years, Collins said. Roughly 600 agencies across the country are using the system.