Va. Town May Consider Preemption

Rocky Mount Town Manager James Ervin said that he thinks town officials may discuss the installation of traffic pre-emptive devices that could change traffic lights to give emergency vehicles the right of way through intersections.

"It is fairly expensive. You would have to put the devices on the lights at every intersection," Ervin said.

The cost could approach several thousand dollars at each intersection, he said.

"But it is something that we could discuss," Ervin said, in the aftermath of the accident in which Fire Chief Posey Dillon and firefighter William "Danny" Altice died Monday.

Dillon and Altice were killed on their way to a house fire when their fire engine was struck by an SUV at the intersection of Old Franklin Turnpike and School Board Road.

The fire engine's flashing lights and siren were on, state police said, but the other vehicle had the green traffic light.

The pre-emptive devices, which are mounted on traffic lights, receive a signal from the emergency vehicles, making the light turn green for the emergency vehicles.

The pre-emptive devices are used in Roanoke and many other localities.

Several years ago, Dillon raised the possibility of Rocky Mount installing the devices in the town.

Ervin said that Dillon brought up the idea during budget talks, but he doesn't recall that it was formally presented to town council or voted on. Some council members reportedly had concerns about the cost.

According to some online reports, the pre-emptive systems can cost more than $5,000 per intersection and $3,000 per vehicle.

Earlier this year, the Waynesboro, Virginia, City Council delayed action on a proposed pre-emptive system because of concerns about the cost. The Waynesboro proposal called for a five-year plan at $246,000 to equip 28 intersections along the city's six busiest streets.

Republished with permission of The Franklin News-Post.