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Public Safety Responsiveness Increases in Cary with New Traffic Light Preemption Devices

Post Date:09/06/2002

CARY, NC – Responding to 911 calls may get 20 percent faster and related accidents at intersections may be virtually eliminated in Cary as the Town embarks on a pilot program to put traffic light control in the hands of emergency responders.

With the approval of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Town of Cary is joining the ranks of other large cities throughout the nation by installing traffic signal preemption devices at key intersections in two areas in town. Manufactured by 3M, the Opticom Priority Control System gives an authorized vehicle—fire and police—advantage over other traffic, intersection by intersection, as needed. As the emergency vehicle approaches, it saturates the intersection with an encoded, infrared signal that is received, decoded, and validated by the Opticom device at the signal to give that vehicle a green light. Other signal lights are turned to red so that the emergency vehicle may proceed safely through the intersection. Once through, the traffic signal lights reverts back to its standard operation.

Most signalized intersections have a built in delay between the time when one light turns red and the light for the opposing traffic turns green to allow for vehicles to clear the intersection, and this delay remains in place even with the Opticom system. Therefore, motorists and pedestrians who are at or approaching Opticom intersections should simply pay attention to the traffic light as normal. Do not anticipate the change, even if an emergency vehicle is approaching; simply follow the direction given by the traffic light.

"The Town of Cary has been actively evaluating systems that would allow for safer emergency responses for us, pedestrians, and the motoring public for several years," said Cary Fire Chief Wayne House. "We are confident that Opticom will help ensure the highest level of responsiveness to emergencies as well as the highest level of motoring safety."

Traffic signals at 11 intersections in Cary are now equipped with Opticom.

In the area of Cary Towne Center:

  • Walnut at Maynard
  • Walnut at Cary Towne Center and Barnes & Nobles
  • Maynard at Cary Towne Boulevard

Along the Kildaire Farms Road corridor:

  • Kildaire at Tryon
  • Kildaire at Cary Parkway
  • Kildaire at Shannon Oaks
  • Kildaire at High Meadow
  • Kildaire at Farmington Woods
  • Kildaire at Executive
  • Kildaire at Kilmaine
  • Kildaire at Maynard

The Town of Cary has invested $ 91,265 in the system, which includes the purchase and installation of the necessary equipment in emergency vehicles and at intersections.

The Opticom system has provided green light priority control for more than 25 years, according to 3M. Learn more about the Opticom technology by viewing a short video at their Web site, or call (651) 575-5794.


Division Chief Neil Woodall, Cary Fire Dept, (919)-469-4056
Chief Wayne House, Cary Fire Dept, (919) 469-4056
Donna Fleming, 3M Worldwide, (651) 736-7646
Bill Coleman, Town Manager, (919) 469-4002
Susan Moran, Public Information Officer, (919) 460-4951

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