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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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  • 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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by DZign ( 200479 ) <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:55AM (#27311791) Homepage

    > the cameras were an invasion of privacy and their constituents thought they had been unfairly ticketed

    1/ don't speed and there's no picture taken so no invasion of your privacy
    2/ unfairly ticketed ? if there's a picture as proof I'd say it's fair you get a ticket..

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:59AM (#27311841) Journal

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

    The unfair ticketing comes in when cities start tweaking the yellow light timing to generate more revenue. I think it would be more productive to outlaw this practice than to outlaw red light cameras. I would personally also outlaw the practice of sharing the revenue with the vendor -- buy it outright like any other system. Traffic laws shouldn't be written/enforced with an eye towards making money -- they should be enforced with an eye towards deterring behavior that places everybody at risk.

    Personally I'd use the revenue to fund traffic safety courses and make everybody who violates the traffic law sit in them. I think the prospect of spending eight hours of your time being lectured would be a bigger deterrent than a sub $100 fine.

  • 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. []

    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 CSHARP123 ( 904951 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:02AM (#27311893)
    What is world coming to? Of all the places on earth, Mississippi is becoming the champion of privacy.
    Next thing you are going to tell me is Hell is better place than heaven. (But I will keep away from both for right now)
  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:02AM (#27311901) Journal

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

    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?

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pinckney ( 1098477 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:02AM (#27311905)
    If the far side of the intersection is not clear, you're not supposed to enter. So yes, it's sort of fair.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:04AM (#27311919)
    You enter the intersection under a green or yellow. Traffic stops ahead of you. Yer stuck in the middle of the intersection. Photo taken of you in intersection. No indication of velocity. Fair cop? Reasonable doubt?

    That's why red-light cameras set up by anyone who's not a totally incompetent moron take two or more consecutive pictures. Duh.

  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:05AM (#27311939) Journal

    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 lights to be removed, not ignore them.

  • 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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nos. ( 179609 ) <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#27311959) Homepage

    That's definitely the best idea I've heard. Regulate the timings on traffic lights, specifically the minimum time a light stays yellow based on the maximum speed of the road.

  • by weav ( 158099 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#27311967)

    I suspect the real reason is that legislators were photographed with their mistresses in their cars, and the pictures sent home to their wives. They would shut that s$#t down real quick...

  • by qoncept ( 599709 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:10AM (#27312023) Homepage
    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.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:13AM (#27312065) Homepage

    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 condition.

    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.

    Getting rid of the cameras is certainly MUCH easier than trying to regulate them.

  • 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 ;-)

  • Profit centre? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:16AM (#27312135)
    I don't intend to defend this system but they wouldn't be considered as profit centres if people didn't drive like braindead fucktards.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:18AM (#27312165)

    In our town, the camera takes a picture of you BEHIND the line at the red light and quickly takes another one of you PAST the line at the red light. QED.

    If you enter on yellow or green, you don't get nailed.

    Also, while creating gridlock is a ticket-able offense (personally I think you should get the rack), it's also conducive to alleviating rush hour traffic when turning LEFT to enter the intersection on green even if you can't completely go through because of oncoming traffic; when they stop because of a red light, you have plenty of time to continue before the cross street gets green...

    One extra car through the light each cycle means that much less traffic to back up. Where I live some lights only allow five or six cars to get through on the green turn signal. That means if you don't make the turn, then after five cycles you've got a whole extra cycle of backup. If the cycle is three minutes, you get two extra cycles of backup every half hour until rush hour ends.

    Of course, you need to know that you'll be able to complete the left turn... if the left turn is backed up, you simply shouldn't enter.

    Some places encourage and teach this (some places don't).

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:22AM (#27312217)

    If you can't see and/or know, you don't enter. It really is as simple as that.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:23AM (#27312233) Journal

    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 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 gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:31AM (#27312365)

    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 five seconds... I swear to you it's no exaggeration... I've been at lights that I'd swear were shorter than that (there's one particular intersection where the first car, which started immediately when the light changed, didn't even make it completely into the intersection before the light was yellow).

    It's terrible. Then again, the drivers are terrible, to (and I'm not up here on a high horse excluding myself). Part of the problem is the flow of traffic has been so poorly planned that people just get completely frustrated.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:32AM (#27312379)

    So this is what you'd be advocating; the light is green, but you must stop and wait at the line before the car preceeding you completely clears. Even if you're the 5th car in the line.

    Isn't that called a stop sign?

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:33AM (#27312401) Homepage

    Except that they gave you a ticket for running a red light, not blocking traffic, which is an entirely different offense with a different penalty, usually lower.

    People who block intersections are in violation of the law and stupid, but not as stupid as the people who knowingly run red lights. Both those action place you in the intersection when the other direction has a green, but running a red light results in you *appearing* there creating a large risk you and someone else will collide, whereas blocking an intersection from the start isn't very risky until people start deciding to go around you and ending up in the wrong lanes. (Which isn't your fault.)

    Anyway, you can block an intersection and it not be your fault. Perhaps someone decided to leap in front of you via turning-right-on-red. A cop wouldn't give you a ticket for getting stranded in the intersection for that (Not that they normally give tickets for blocking intersections anyway.), they'd give the other guy a ticket for failing to yield.

    Or perhaps something serious happened in your lane ahead so you had to change lanes in the intersection (Which is also illegal, but, again, not running a red light), and the other lane was full.

    Entering an intersection without a reasonable expectation that you can clear the other side of it is a violation of the law. But people can't predict there future, and there are plenty of 'reasonable expectation' that are wrong. And even if you broke that law, it doesn't mean you should get a ticket for breaking an entirely unrelated law.

  • 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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#27312503) Journal

    You do not have to stop unless you can't make it through the intersection. It's not advocating, its pointing out how it is to you.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:43AM (#27312547)
    Socailism. You idiots keep using that word, but it does not mean what you think it means. Oh sorry, I forgot the Conservative Strategy. Keep repeating lies until even you yourself believe them.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brkello ( 642429 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:45AM (#27312579)
    Do you have a driver's license? Have you been driving long? Yes, if the intersection is not going to be clear, you wait at the line. It is obvious when this is the case when traffic is backed up. It is not like you have to wait for it to be clear before entering if the car in front obviously is going to make it through and there will be room for you. But if traffic is so backed up that you are going 5 mph through the light, then yes, you stop and wait until you see there will be enough room for you. You don't even need a law for that, it's common sense. At least for MOST people.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ilctoh ( 620875 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:53AM (#27312703)
    How about this: I'm a paramedic, I work on an ambulance. One of the cities I work in has red-light cameras (that will also get you for speeding) setup along the main roads leading to two of the largest hospitals in the state. In ambulance, when we are running lights and sirens, the law permits us to proceed through a red light after stopping at the intersection, and confirming that other traffic is yielding to us. However, if one of our ambulances proceeds through a red light with a camera, we will automatically receive a ticket in the mail. So far, we've been able to get it dropped by mailing in a copy of our run report, and explaining that we were in an emergency response, but that's still a hassle for our office staff, and then there's the issue where we're being ticketed for an offence that is not even against the law! I'm not entirely opposed to red light cameras; however, I'd like to see a more accurate process for issuing tickets.
  • by E-Rock ( 84950 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:17PM (#27313031) Homepage

    "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 now anyway. Traffic is moving along and suddenly it drops *below* the speed limit until we crawl thru the camera section and then everyone zooms off again. Hard to say if it's just my persepective, but it seems like people are driving faster to make up for time lost in the camera sections.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:43PM (#27313599)
    Because it leads to people abusing the system to make more money. And it has already been well documented that this is the case. As well, any reduction in running red lights is being made up for in rear-end accidents. Lengthing yellow lights on a case by case basis would fix both problems and requires no draconian big brother and almost no cost.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:47PM (#27313693) Journal

    The problem IMHO is that everybody here by arguing about whether you get stuck in the intersection is missing the forest for the trees. What we are talking about with these cameras is ticket generators, nothing more. I have seen places that have these cameras where there is NO yellow light...the thing switches through yellow so damned fast your brain doesn't even have time to process it before you are in red and you are getting a ticket. See the problem here?

    This is especially bad in these little one cop town speed traps you get throughout the rural south. Since they are pretty much living on burning out of towners they have EVERY incentive to rig it as much as they can against you. Cops having quotas is bad enough. But with these things both the company setting them up and the city have EVERY reason to make sure they can pass out maximum tickets. This isn't about safety or intersections, this is about boning those of us on the roads. A little highway robbery,if you will.

  • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:59PM (#27313889) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoodleSlayer ( 603762 ) <ryan AT severeboredom DOT com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:13PM (#27314147) Homepage
    Then there's also moronic city planners that don't know how to set traffic lights up and create conditions under peak traffic that have their lights timed so that there never is any space for people making turns onto the road. By the time space clears out to make that turn your light has already turned red and the space is being filled by more people going straight on the road.

    I've lived in several places where this was an exceedingly common problem, but the intersection of 9th & Mercer in Seattle is by far the worst I've seen (map []) It can take 10 minutes to get from Broad & 9th to make the left hand turn on Mercer during rush hour because of that. I ended up rerouting the way I get to that intersection so I could avoid that turn and shave at least 10 minutes off the time it takes me to get to work during rush hour when I drive.

    This unfortunately means the only way traffic EVER moves on that street during rush hour is if people move into the intersection while they have a green light. Thanks to how the lights are timed shortly before the left turn light turns red the light ahead on mercer will turn green and they'll get to move out of the intersection. Better traffic management could solve this problem, but if the city instead decides to place traffic cameras there to hand out tickets they would be incentivized to leave it broken.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:34PM (#27314549) Homepage

    Blocking the intersection is only when you enter it without being able to fit in your lane at the other side.

    You're not legally blocking an intersection if you can't get across because of other people in other lanes being in your way, like if you're turning left and opposing traffic is stopping you. Even if they stop where they are, blocking traffic, and thus strand you as you're unable to turn through them, you're still not committing the offense of blocking the intersection.

    No, you only commit 'blocking the intersection' that the moment you enter the intersection if, and only if, you don't have a clear place to be on the other side of it, regardless of what happens inside it. In theory, they can charge you with it even if your gamble paid off and the other side is clear by the time you get to it. Entering without a clear place to be is illegal, just like entering on a red light is illegal.

  • by The Moof ( 859402 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @01:45PM (#27314725)
    Notice how I said I didn't hit him/her. Meaning I did leave enough room.

    And if a light changes to yellow, it doesn't mean "stop at all costs," Yea, you could theoretically stop your car in the space provided, but laying rubber to do so and sitting stopped at a yellow light is also just as bad as gunning it to beat the red.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adamacr ( 1304859 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @02:28PM (#27315503)
    So you pass a law that specifies the minimum time for a yellow light - depending on speed limit obviously. I'm sure there are already some guidelines in place for whoever is programming the lights. No need to ban the cameras outright, just fix the actual enforcement problem. In Maryland the camera citations have several frames showing the light turning yellow and then red and have the timings for those changes. When I've gotten a ticket, it was clear that I deserved it.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @02:33PM (#27315591) Journal
    If the problem is yellow lights that are too fast, fix that.

    Removing cameras isn't going to stop the "one cop town speed trap" mentality. If they're willing to rig yellow lights (and kill people) just for $$$, they'll just find another way to collect money from you.

    So using that as an excuse to remove the cams is silly and doesn't deal with the real problem.

    I'm fine with removing traffic light cams as long as there's a much better reason.

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