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Mississippi Passes Law To Ban Traffic Light Cameras 629

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-i-know-where-i'll-go-to-run-red-lights dept.
DaGoatSpanka writes with news that Mississippi Governer Haley Barbour signed a bill into law on Friday which instituted a ban on automated cameras that would snap pictures of motorists when they ran red lights. "The new law says the two cities that already have the cameras, Jackson and Columbus, must take them down by Oct. 1. Other cities and counties are banned from starting to use them." We've discussed situations in the past where cities looked at such cameras as "profit centers," and even tampered with their traffic light timing to catch more motorists. Now, in Mississippi, the contractors who installed the cameras are unhappy, since they received a cut of the ticket revenue generated by the cameras. However, lawmakers overwhelming voted to get rid of them (117-3 in the House, 42-9 in the Senate), because "the cameras were an invasion of privacy and their constituents thought they had been unfairly ticketed."
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Mississippi Passes Law To Ban Traffic Light Cameras

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  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Akido37 (1473009) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:53AM (#27311743)
    An elected government responding to the wishes of the electorate?


    Inconceivable!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • by Kostya (1146) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:54AM (#27311773) Homepage Journal

    However, lawmakers overwhelming voted to get rid of them (117-3 in the House, 42-9 in the Senate), because "the cameras were an invasion of privacy and their constituents thought they had been unfairly ticketed."

    So despite the company and local municipalities profiting from this, constituents actually made their voices heard and their representatives acted accordingly?

    I am deeply confused. This is not the democracy I am used to. I'm going to have to find something else to be cynical about today.

  • Holy cow... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jonah Bomber (535788) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:54AM (#27311779)
    Mississippi a leader in something. Amazing. Way to go!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spazztastic (814296)

      Mississippi a leader in something. Amazing.

      That's rather crude to assume they never were the leaders of something. The Mississippi Legislature removed fractions and decimal points [snopes.com] from the curriculum in their public schools. Clearly they're a leader in the degradation of the American educational system..

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Indeed. I thought the bigger story here is: Mississippi has traffic lights.
    • by eln (21727)

      That's not fair...Mississippi has been the leader in poverty and underachieving in education for decades.

    • by soulsteal (104635)

      To be fair, we've been tops in teen pregnancy for a while...

      WE'RE #1! WE'RE #1!

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:55AM (#27311789) Journal

    .... we don't have them around here and people run lights all the time. And I don't mean they squeak in under a yellow that turns red when they are in the middle of the intersection -- the light is red for a full second or two before they even hit the stop line.

    I hate the concept of red light cameras but I'm hating the concept of being t-boned even more. If we can't have red light cameras can we at least have some fucking human enforcement of the traffic laws? There's a difference between hitting the gas to beat a yellow light and just plain ignoring the red because your selfish attitude thinks waiting 30 seconds is a worse outcome than placing other drivers at risk.

    • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:02AM (#27311901) Journal

      I know what you mean. I commented on this the other day. [slashdot.org]

      I know this goes against the general /. attitude, but I used to be against red light cameras on principle. That was before I moved to my current city and saw how people behaved. I don't think they're appropriate everywhere, but I do think that my city could certainly use them. It just depends on the location and people's behavior.

      Also, I have a hard time understanding how privacy comes into play. When you are driving, you are doing it in a public place; why should there be any expectation of privacy?

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:06AM (#27311953) Journal

        Also, I have a hard time understanding how privacy comes into play. When you are driving, you are doing it in a public place; why should there be any expectation of privacy?

        What I don't understand is why a red-light camera that only fires when you run the red-light is an invasion of your privacy but a police officer pulling you over for the exact same thing isn't.

        Either way, people are asshats. They'd rather run the light and place the other drivers at risk than wait 30 fucking seconds to get to where they are going. I don't like seeing traffic tickets used as a revenue source -- I think they should be set at the smallest amount possible to fund aggressive traffic safety classes. Make everybody who violates the traffic law twice sit in one of those classes or lose their license. Most people value 8 hours of their time more than they value a lousy $100. Let that and the subsequent increase in your insurance premiums serve as the deterrent.

        • by langelgjm (860756)

          Either way, people are asshats. They'd rather run the light and place the other drivers at risk than wait 30 fucking seconds to get to where they are going. I don't like seeing traffic tickets used as a revenue source -- I think they should be set at the smallest amount possible to fund aggressive traffic safety classes.

          I think a lot of opponents of red light cameras don't believe that there can be a culture of disrespect and douchebaggery, if you will. In the thread I linked to above, another poster suggested that the reason I see so many people run red lights in my city must be because of a technical problem with light timing, etc. From my experience, that's just not the case. People run red lights on residential streets where there are no timing or traffic flow problems.

          Your idea of forcing people to take classes is goo

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gfxguy (98788)

          Yeah... I don't see it as an invasion of privacy, but the other complaints are valid... the yellow light doesn't suddenly shorten because a cop happens to be waiting nearby, for example.

          But the problem is that... well, maybe I'm just impatient, but there are plenty of lights I pass that are ridiculously short. Traffic is terrible around here. The faster the cycle goes, the less effective, overall, it is (more time spent stopped) and some of the cycles are just stupidly fast. I'm literally talking about f

        • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:36AM (#27312445) Homepage Journal

          What I don't understand is why a red-light camera that only fires when you run the red-light is an invasion of your privacy but a police officer pulling you over for the exact same thing isn't.

          Either way, people are asshats.

          Murderers are asshats too. But I'm not quite as sure about accused murderers.

          The problem isn't really about privacy and the people who complain about their privacy being invaded when they're in public are full of shit.

          The problem is that the cop gives the alleged offender a criminal citation, and they have due process. The defendant can go to court and have a judge look at the situation, face their accuser, etc. Nobody's camera laws work like that.

          If you uphold the "civil citation for normally criminal matters" system, then you're opening a huge door to injustice. The local governments might as well create a parallel civil law for every single type of criminal misconduct, and they would be able get around all the rights that we thought the constitution protected.

          Seriously, what's the point of the 4th and 5th amendments, if you can just get around them with civil law? If you think those amendments were a bad idea and have made society too lenient on the bad guys, then stand up and advocate their repeal. Using civil law as a loophole, is a really lame thing for government to do, and we ought to have nipped this abuse in the bud right away.

      • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:22PM (#27314315) Homepage Journal

        You appear to be under the misconception that red light cameras reduce accidents.

        It simply isn't the case. http://www.motorists.org/blog/red-light-cameras-increase-accidents-5-studies-that-prove-it/ [motorists.org]

        For intersections with high rates of run through, the answer is to send an engineer out and rework the light timings to make sure they work in conjunction with surrounding lights and have a sufficient yellow time, to reduce the travel speed on the road close to the intersection, or to re-engineer the intersection to better control traffic.

        They are a gimmick designed to turn a profit for the state and the private contractors who operate them. They have a vested interest in making intersections LESS safe by inducing more revenue generating red light tickets.

        -Rick

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tx (96709)

      Yes, I'm kind of astonished by this. Over here in the UK, there are plenty of complaints about speed cameras being used as revenue generators, by being put in places where there isn't a safety issue. But I don't think I've ever once heard anyone complaining about a red light camera. There is no effing excuse for running a red light, and no safe way of doing it. If you live in the middle of nowhere and feel the traffic levels are low enough that a red light can be ignored, then you should campaign for those

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        If you live in the middle of nowhere and feel the traffic levels are low enough that a red light can be ignored, then you should campaign for those lights to be removed, not ignore them.

        Here in the States a situation like that would usually have a flashing light. It flashes yellow on one roadway (the busier one) to serve as a warning and flashes red on the other to require people to stop. The flashing red is treated in the same manner as a stop sign -- you stop, look and if it is safe to proceed you do so. Is there an equivalent to that in the UK?

        • by CmdrGravy (645153)

          Not with lights but most main roads have priority over minor roads which cross over them so on the minor roads there is a give way sign and a line across the road which you need to stop at to check there is no traffic on the main road before you turn onto it or go across a junction. Obviously peoples definitions of "stop" varies quite a lot and some rural roads are quite dangerous when people take no notice of the signs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        Red light cameras distort traffic flow. They encourage people to make
        SUDDEN manuevers that they wouldn't otherwise. Dunno about where you
        are from but where I am from, they think that accidents are caused by
        SUDDEN manuevers. IOW, you cause accidents by surprising other drivers.

        This can be by violating expectations/law or by suddenly stopping cold to
        avoid some stupid redlight camera.

        Plus, they have have been tweaking these cameras to increase revenue even
        when it was obvious they were creating a safety conditi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          This can be by violating expectations/law or by suddenly stopping cold to avoid some stupid redlight camera.

          If the yellow light timing hasn't been tampered with why do you need to 'suddenly stop cold' to avoid the camera? If you treat the yellow light as you are supposed to treat it (i.e: stop if you can safely do so) there is zero excuse for running a red light.

          • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:45AM (#27312583) Homepage

            In most cases, the timings HAVE been dinked with.

            I've seen all too many short yellow lights, especially with the cameras in place. If you're in that intersection and it goes yellow, and you see that it's a camera monitored intersection, you'd better either be 1/2 or more the way through the intersection or you'll get the ticket period, even though a human would not have considered it a violation at that point in most cases.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            You've obviously never been to Hollywood. When I first arrived in 1999, I wondered why everyone paused a couple of seconds when a light went green. In New England, it's like the races. When the light goes green, everyone takes off. I soon discovered that the reason why everyone pauses was that tons of people run the reds. You see, downtown Hollywood has yet to discover the green arrow and with every other street being a four way intersection, the only way to take a left is to wait until the light goes
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by E-Rock (84950)

          "Speed cameras don't have that problem. The existence of speed cameras don't encourage cities to screw around with well established civil engineering practices just to make a buck."

          Sure they do. Anything with a profit potential creates the potential for abuse. We just got speed cameras where I live and the speed limits change arbitrarily in the sections of road where they are placed. My real beef with them is that the speed is not posted at or even near the camera.

          Anyway, they only catch out of towners n

      • by Abcd1234 (188840)

        But I don't think I've ever once heard anyone complaining about a red light camera.

        Yeah, but is your municipality shortening the yellow in order to generate more red light runners, thus increasing revenue? Because, believe it or not, some US cities have been accused of doing just that...

      • There is no effing excuse for running a red light

        Clearly you're not a motorcyclist that has fallen victim to sensor-driven traffic lights. You can wait all day at a red light for a car to come trip the sensor for you, or you can wait a couple of minutes, wait for a clearing, and run the light.

      • by locofungus (179280) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:28AM (#27312297)

        AIUI, in the US they've been shortening the amber phase to the point where it's taking an emergency stop to avoid crossing the line on red.

        I'm not aware of this happening in the UK. Almost every red light camera is on a 30mph road. I've never seen one on a road faster than 40mph. Amber phases are usually three seconds and almost never even as short as two seconds.

        This all adds up to the only people who are ever caught by red light cameras in the UK are those who are blatantly ignoring the amber phase.

        I can't find the original press release now but this RAC survey:
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3005364.stm [bbc.co.uk]
        counted motorists as "scrambling through on amber" if the light had been _red_ for less than three seconds. Unfortunately, AFAIAA, the data for motorists going through on red has never been released. One hypothesis for why the raw data was suppressed is that this was really a study intending to show how bad cyclists were relative to other road users but the results didn't really support that claim.

        Tim.

    • by mariushm (1022195)

      Maybe your state could actually hire some cops to stay at the traffic lights for a few days and take the drivers' license of the people doing that for something like a week, or 15 days.

      After a few weeks of this, people will probably learn to wait at the red light.

      The benefits of having red light cameras are far lower than the problems they cause (like people stopping suddenly at the light because they don't want to get tickets and causing crashes, the companies lowering the yellow light time to get more tic

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qoncept (599709)
      I lived in Montgomery AL for 6 years and everyone ran red lights there. Solution? Make the red light less than 20 fucking minutes. People don't mind sitting at a red light for a minute, but the lights were so long in Montgomery it would make your travelling time significantly longer at each red light you got stuck at, and people got sick of it and started running them.
    • can we at least have some fucking human enforcement of the traffic laws?

      Heh. Cops enjoy running red lights as much, if not moreso, than we do. My state recently made it illegal to talk on the phone while driving but everybody(including the police) still do it anyway.

    • by plague3106 (71849)

      Sounds like something wrong with the yellow light timing. Perhaps you should petition to increase yellow light time.

      http://www.motorists.org/photoenforce/home/regulating-red-light-cameras/ [motorists.org]

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Sounds like something wrong with the yellow light timing. Perhaps you should petition to increase yellow light time.

        There's nothing wrong with the yellow light timing around here. The ones I've bothered to time in town are all 4 seconds or longer. Are you telling me that a four second yellow in a 30 mph zone isn't sufficient warning to stop? Is it so hard to accept the fact that people are selfish asshats who will run the light if they know they can get away with it?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by plague3106 (71849)

          Yup, it is. Either you're exaggating the problem, or you never actually timed the lights. You also don't know if 30MPH is actually the appropriate speed limit for the road. Given that 85% of ALL roads in the US have limits lower than enginneing standards would dictate (by 8 - 12 MPH, on average), I'd say the speed limit for your road is likely too low, and as what always happens when engineering principals aren't followed, people are going more than 30MPH, and so the light timing is set too low because t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brandybuck (704397)

      You don't need cameras for that. You just need a cop giving out tickets. Hell, even a "scarecrow" decoy of a fake cop car will slow them down.

  • So, instead of ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#27311871)

    ... laying down sensible rules for using these things (minimum yellow light duration, camera is only armed 1 second after red light comes on, _no sharing revenues with the manufacturer/contractor_, etc), they're banned outright?

    I smell a bit of luddism here.

    • ... laying down sensible rules for using these things (minimum yellow light duration, camera is only armed 1 second after red light comes on, _no sharing revenues with the manufacturer/contractor_, etc), they're banned outright?

      I smell a bit of luddism here.

      WTF is it with you people? First, we pretty much decide here that traffic cameras are evil, Big Brother instruments dedicated to profits and intrusive government more than public safety.

      But when a state actually listens to its citizens and bans the things... they're luddites?

      What the hell does it take to make you people happy?

  • by eyal0 (912653) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#27311881)

    When you reward a company with money per traffic violation, obviously it will be in their interest for there to be more traffic violations. And the traffic laws are there to protect lives. Basically, governments are rewarding companies for killing people.

    http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/06/602.asp [thenewspaper.com]

    How about giving the companies a bonus relative to the decrease in the number of traffic accidents in an intersection? Now that seems smarter.

    • by The Moof (859402) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:28AM (#27312289)
      As someone who was behind a "oh shit, yellow SLAM ON THE BREAKS BECAUSE THAT SIGN SAYS THEY'RE WATCHING ME skid to a stop" driver earlier this week, I agree with the parent. I narrowly avoided an accident and the guy in front of me panicked when the light turned yellow with plenty of time for him and me (and if anyone was behind me, them also) to go through. I've also witnessed one accident caused as a direct result of the camera (same type of driver mentioned above). Our cameras have only been up for 6 months, and that was the first accident I've ever seen at that intersection.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#27312481) Journal

      When you reward a government with money per traffic violation, obviously it will be in their interest for there to be more traffic violations

      .

      Fixed that for you. Allowing the government to profit from law enforcement is just as big of a conflict of interest. People need to be punished, so there need to be fines, but the fines should simply be destroyed. That would avoid any conflict of interest, and make the people (infinitesimally) richer as a consequence of constricting the money supply. This rule belongs in the Constitution.

  • by OhPlz (168413) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:05AM (#27311937)

    This is a timely article. The state of NH is currently considering passing a law allowing cities to put up these cameras. As usual, we're a bit behind the times.

    SB 113:

    http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2009/SB0113.html [state.nh.us]

  • by natoochtoniket (763630) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#27311961)

    I live in Fort Lauderdale. The stoplight at the exit from my neighborhood has been adjusted, just a couple weeks ago. They recently installed cameras on this intersection. The new cycle appears to be: 1 second of green, 1 second of yellow, 28 seconds of red. The main street is getting 27 seconds of green, and 1 second of yellow, and 2 seconds of red. There appears to be no overlap of the red.

    The state law says the yellow must be 4 seconds, if I recall correctly. But even if the camera-tickets can be successfully challenged in court, and even if a judge eventually orders the city to change the timing, it is still tying up the traffic. And, there have been more collisions at that intersection in the last two weeks than there were in the previous 20 years.

  • Caught red handed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Temujin_12 (832986)

    I remember being sent in the mail a photo of me running a red light from one of these traffic cameras along with a ticket. The front of my car hadn't even entered the intersection before the light was red and you could clearly see my license plate, me, and the red light in the photo. I just laughed and paid the ticket.

  • With that law passed zillions will go to live in Mississippi causing a house price boom there. Once Gov. Haley Barbour has sold his house he will repeal the law.
  • by sribe (304414) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:14AM (#27312085)

    I've seen outrageous examples of red-light runners, and they do occasionally kill people, so I support the idea of the cameras, when done properly. Why don't they just pass a law that says that any government entity that is caught with a red light camera on a light where the yellow is shorter than the standards say it should be, must reimburse triple damages to all recipients of tickets, and further may be sued by those recipients for triple any increase in insurance because of the ticket? That ought make these cities proceed cautiously and correctly ;-)

    • A naive approach. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ClintJCL (264898)
      That may work logistically, but it wouldn't work in reality. Most people will just pay a ticket, even if innocent. In the end, you would have to take this to court, miss work, pay a lawyer. People aren't going to do that. And the alternative is to have the government police itself, which, if you have any grasp on reality, you would know is utterly futile. :)
  • Here in my area they were considering installing speeding cameras but the city councils all balked once they discovered that they'd only be getting 5 cents on every dollar of ticket revenue. The rest went to the camera company. If proponents are really only worried about safety, what really works is to park an unmanned police car on the highway.

  • by bjdevil66 (583941) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:18AM (#27312153)

    ...the bills (primarily HB2106) have been meeting stiff resistance from lobbyists and a strong PR campaign from the Department of Public Service (i.e. Highway Patrol), Redflex (the company that put up our beloved freeway speed cameras) and ATS (American Traffic Solutions), which is based in Scottsdale and is growing. Certain members of the AZ state legislature recently tried to slip in an amendment that would have legalized the unexpected and unauthorized video feeds from the cameras (the 24/7 video feeds that are archived for 90 days) and it would have allowed police to use them in all criminal investigations (that amendment has since been removed).

    It doesn't help that our biggest publication is also in the pro-camera lobby's pocket either, which continually publishes pro-camera fluff pieces, and it constantly trumps up a flawed poll that says that Arizonans are in favor of the cameras. (The creator of the poll: ATS. The publication has also replaced the actual questions to the poll - which were totally leading, and now only publishes an obnoxious, Powerpoint-exported, Clipart filled, document full of splashy, bright red, ominous-looking percentages).

    I'm holding out hope that the bill can make it through with a GOP-controlled legislature and GOP governor (the cameras were Janet Napolitano's idea - yes, our beloved HD Secretary - you were all duped if you think she was a good choice for that role. We couldn't get her out of this state fast enough.).

    No offense, Mississippi, but the fact that they can be that far ahead of my home state on such a simple-minded issue is embarrassing. Come on, Arizona - do the right thing! Don't make camerafraud.com do the heavy lifting for you!

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:23AM (#27312239) Homepage Journal

    1) No profit-sharing. The city should assume all costs and all responsibilities.
    2) Arrest the car. If the car is caught running a red light, boot or impound the car for 24 hours at the city's expense. No fines. No costs to the car owner. Since the citizens of the city want to encourage people not to run red lights, let them absorb the costs of law enforcement.
    3) Include several seconds before and after the infraction, and include a wide-angle view so extenuating circumstances are visible.
    4) Destroy all videos 24 hours after they are no longer needed.
    5) No gaming with the yellow lights. Yellow light timing should be based on safety not pumping up red-light run counts.
    6) Right to trial by jury, even if it is just an "administrative" penalty.

    OK, #2 is not going to happen, but the rest are necessary for any automated enforcement.

    Also, any intersection with a high offense rate should automatically become subject to a traffic engineering study and enhanced live-cop enforcement during times of peak red-light running. The engineering study is to make sure the intersection does not "invite" red-light running, say, by poorly timed lights, poor visibility, excessive congestion, etc., and the cops are there to further deter red-light-running.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:21PM (#27313135)
    Getting rid of red light cameras would be a major reason to vote for someone in local elections at a minimum. Public safety should not be a profit center.

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