Traffic preemption devices are signaling devices designed to give emergency response vehicles a green light on their approach to signalized intersections. Emergency vehicles have a preemption light installed in the light bar that flashes to the front of the vehicle. This light flashes a pattern that the traffic signal at the approaching intersection recognizes. The traffic signal then cycles the lights so the approaching emergency vehicle receives a green light. This tool has resulted in lower response times and improved safety. In a study conducted by Fairfax County, Virginia, the devices saved 30-45 seconds per intersection at busy intersections and in Plano, Texas emergency vehicle crashes were reduced from 2.3 per year to less than one every five years.
Although Cedar Falls is not as large as these metropolitan areas, fewer accidents and a reduction in response time are important. Medical aid to a person suffering a heart attack or a severe injury can vary significantly if response time is reduced by 1-2 minutes. Cedar Falls Police respond to over 29,000 calls a year and the Fire Department responds to nearly 2,000 calls each year. Most of the police and fire vehicles are already equipped with the signaling devices and local ambulances are also installing them.
The City is in the process of installing preemption devices at many of the busier intersections including University Avenue, Main Street, and certain intersections on Highway 58, Waterloo Road and 18th Street. The installed devices will be operational by this summer and additional intersections will continue to be added.