San Jose investing in traffic tech that could help save lives

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The city of San Jose is investing in new technology to manipulate traffic signals to potentially save lives.

First responders have struggled to reach emergencies in the required amount of time, and city leaders hope this change could help.

In San Jose, firefighters are required to arrive to an emergency within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time. But for the last several years, the department has not been consistently meeting that goal. Right now two minutes are given to process the call, two minutes for getting into fire gear, and four minutes are used for travel time.

"We know that we've been saddled as the city grows as traffic gets tougher we've seen more cars on the road and that really impacts our ability to travel the distance we need to go in those four minutes, San Jose Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Patterson said.

City officials believe manipulating traffic signals will help emergency responders.

Currently just one third of the traffic lights use technology to turn red lights green for first responders. This afternoon the city council voted to go forward in upgrading the system so all traffic signals will be able to do that.

"The route is pre identified for the fire truck to follow and signals that are in the way will automatically be switched to green so the truck can move through the intersection," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

The system upgrade will cost $600,000.

Fire officials say they're encouraged the city is investing in the system.

"We anticipate that if we save 30 seconds on some of the longer responses that's a that's a technology change that will be at the end of time for us," Patterson said.

But the fire department says it won't solve the problem entirely. As the city grows in population there will be a need to add more fire stations.
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