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Why do fire trucks not have a switch to turn traffic lights green in their direction?

Patrick Gannon

UPDATE: In May 2013, the city of Wilmington announced it was looking into providing the fire department with the “preemption technology”discussed in the this answer from 2009. Click here to read the story.

ORIGINAL ANSWER: Emergency workers in Wilmington don’t have that ability to switch traffic lights to work in their favor. Not yet.

But it’s coming.

The technology in the existing traffic signal controls doesn’t interface well with “preemption,” the ability of emergency workers to change traffic signals as they approach intersections, said Don Bennett, city traffic engineering manager.

But the city’s new traffic signal system, which is under construction now, will provide the ability for emergency workers to change signals as they approach intersections, he said.

“We are currently working with the fire department to identify locations to pilot the technology,” Bennett said.

By early 2010, preemption might be available at some intersections. It costs money, though, so how quickly the program is implemented will depend on funding, Bennett said.

City firefighters currently can change traffic signals just outside of city fire stations using a button inside the stations, Bennett said. That helps the trucks get out of the station and onto the road faster. The new equipment and technology would allow them to change lights at many intersections when responding to calls.

“This puts it on the truck and makes it mobile,” Bennett said.

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Jake T

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