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Mississippi Passes Law To Ban Traffic Light Cameras 629

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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  • 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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joey Vegetables ( 686525 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:03AM (#27311909) Journal
    In cities like NYC this is considered a serious offense because you are creating gridlock. But no matter where you are it is a good idea (and, in some places, a legal requirement) that you enter an intersection only if/when there is sufficient room to leave it again.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:04AM (#27311925) Journal

    Huh... well that's not how 'our' traffic light cameras work. They basically trigger on the conditions that..
    1. the light -is- red
    2. somebody is actually crossing something like 2 meters past the hold line -while- that light is red.

    You could still argue the case that you crossed it because an 18 wheeler was coming up behind you and didn't seem to be slowing down at all, or that you were getting out of the way of an ambulance.. the latter would have records, the former not so much. But it's not quite as bad as the case you present where you actually crossed during a green and got snapped while stuck on the intersection.

    Though if you're stuck on an intersection, perhaps that photo is the least of your problems... what, with traffic about to come at you from one of the other directions and all.

  • 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: []

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ambiguous Coward ( 205751 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:11AM (#27312031) Homepage

    This is more about running reds, I believe, than speeding.

    And on that note, I drive a motorcycle, and quite often a motorcycle does not generate enough of an EM field to be noticed by the sensors. Pull up to an intersection that is slow in your direction and you can wait all day if you like and never get a green. The common solution here is to simply wait for traffic to slow, and then run the red when there's a break. This particular problem happens even more often when waiting for left-turn arrows.

    Do you suggest I should just wait half an hour for a car to coincidentally be going my way, or just accept my ticket for running the red light, simply because a camera saw me do it? I would say that would be a pretty fair ticket. The "picture as proof" fails to consider context. The above is simply one example where context makes a world of difference. There are other situations as well.

    Furthermore, I should not have to spend a day in court because an automated system is incapable of properly considering the entire situation, so don't tell me "well then you can just get it thrown out of court." That still costs me time (and therefore money.)

    Additionally, on the topic of context and your (2): suppose someone took a picture of me shooting someone in the chest with a gun. Wow! You've got proof I committed murder! Maybe I should go to jail? Nevermind the fact that a similar picture from just a few seconds before would depict the other person coming at me with a knife, intent on killing me for the few dollars in my wallet. We don't have that picture, so clearly it is irrelevant.

    Wtf? A picture of a moment in time is not the entire story; don't treat it as if it is.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:20AM (#27312193)

    unfairly ticketed ? if there's a picture as proof I'd say it's fair you get a ticket..

    Read the summary. The camera's were rigged to give out bogus tickets. A common trick was to set the yellow-light time so short that it is physically impossible to safely stop in time.

    Assuming a driver slams the breaks and the car decelerates at 3/4 G, it takes a car traveling at 35MPH a full 4.2 seconds to stop and that doesn't even count driver reaction time. There have been many cases where cities would set their yellow-light times as low as 3 seconds. (IIRC the legal minimum is 5 seconds.)

    Any way you cut it, traffic cameras were being used by cities to abuse their citizens. Some sort of reform was needed. (Though perhaps regulation would have been better than completely banning them.)

  • 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 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: []
    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.


  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:34AM (#27312409) Homepage Journal

    The green-light time should be enough for 3 cars. The yellow-light time should be enough for someone who is going the legal speed to either come to a safe stop or continue at speed and be through the intersection before the red, whichever is longer, plus about 3/4- to 1-second for the driver to decide how to react.

    Sub-2-second yellow only make sense coming out of parking lots, where the speed is generally 5- to 10-mph. Very short greens only make sense when there will almost never be more than 1 car at a time. In such cases, by definition traffic is low and "green on demand" is probably better.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by EastCoastSurfer ( 310758 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:58AM (#27312775)

    In SC they recently passed a law for motorcycles. You can treat red lights like stop signs in certain situations. I don't remember all the details (I don't have a motorcycle), but it was written to address the situation you are talking about.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jargon82 ( 996613 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:06PM (#27312879)
    No, most people believe they have the "right" to block the intersection in order to get home 12 seconds earlier. By blocking the intersection, they impact dozens (or hundreds) of other drivers. Actions like this, taken by vast numbers of people, are a large part of the reason the traffic is backed up in the first place.
  • Re:Holy cow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sans_A_Cause ( 446229 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:40PM (#27313543)

    And we read Slashdot, too.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) * <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:57PM (#27313859) Homepage

    We had the same problem in the UK - []
    This prompted a change in the law - []

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Informative)

    by BPPG ( 1181851 ) <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:20PM (#27314277)

    TFA of the linked slashdot article indicates that the cities were shortening the length of the yellow lights. It could still be green, and it may not be obvious that the car(s) in front of you is/are about to stop. It seems that this was where the "unfair" part is coming from.

  • 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. []

    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.


  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Informative)

    by tjonnyc999 ( 1423763 ) <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:56PM (#27314965)
    In cities like NYC, not all intersections have turn-arrow lights. In those cases, if you're making a TURN, it's OK to block the intersection - otherwise, you will never be able to make the turn due to the cross-traffic. Technically, it's illegal. Technically, you could get a ticket. But most cops in NYC are not assholes, and recognize that blocking the intersection for several seconds because you need to turn is a far lesser evil than blocking the traffic for several minutes (which, considering the traffic density of Manhattan, will impact hundreds of vehicles.)

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"