BURNABY, B.C. - Burnaby city councilors hope a high-tech traffic control system will prevent crashes between residents and emergency vehicles, according to http://www.canada.com.

Recently, the Burnaby council approved a $3-million system that gives police cars and fire trucks the ability to change traffic signals during emergencies.

Using global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, the system sends a signal that changes the operation of traffic lights, giving emergency vehicles priority.

"With survival rates critical to the arrival time of emergency crews, this can add up to several minutes saved over the route travelled," a staff report from Burnaby Fire Chief Bob Cook says."Collisions involving emergency responders can also be reduced."

Different kinds of vehicles would trigger a different kind of response from traffic signals, and the GPS system would be able to calculate the speed of the emergency vehicle and time the signal change in response, the report notes.

Last month, a police car crashed with a Chevrolet Cavalier at Kingsway and Royal Oak Avenue. The police car had its siren on and lights flashing when it came through the intersection. The crash is now under investigation.

Currently, Burnaby has 218 signalized city-owned traffic signals and seven owned by the Ministry of Transportation. The city's fire department has 25 vehicles that would be equipped with the new system, while the Burnaby RCMP has 135. Certain city vehicles may also be equipped for disaster response in the future, the report states.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees' Union Local 873 said response times for some life-threatening calls are talking up to 14 minutes, five minutes past the provincial standard.

A staff report suggests increasing congestion is also a factor for emergency response times in the city. "Burnaby's complex road environment and traffic congestion has increased to the point where emergency response times are being compromised," the report notes.