Have you ever been at a traffic light and noticed a small white light flashing, then you hear sirens, then an emergency vehicle passes through the intersection?
The small white light and its black antenna is part of a receiver for a system called an Opticom.
Opticom is a traffic control system that provides a way for emergency vehicles (like fire engines, ambulances, and police cars) to get priority access to traffic intersections. The technology has been around Harrisonburg and many other towns now for several years. Most of the nearly 85 intersections with traffic lights in Harrisonburg are equipped with Opticom devices.
Emergency vehicles have a device that transmits an infrared signal to the intersection ahead. The Opticom system recognizes the vehicle and changes all the lights to red, while keeping one direction green for the approaching apparatus.
The two main reasons for this technology are time and safety. Busy roads and congested intersections can severely affect response time in an emergency when every second counts. By granting priority access to emergency vehicles, response time increases an average of 20%, and the number of accidents is reduced as well. Safely and quickly reaching the scene of an emergency is the goal of every first responder.
If you are at or approaching an intersection and notice the traffic signals are changing while the small white light is flashing or on-steady, know that one or more emergency vehicles may be in front of you or behind you.
Please safely yield so that first responders may quickly and safely reach the scene of an emergency.