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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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  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:58AM (#27311837)
    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?
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#27311873) Homepage Journal

    Haley Barbour, former head of the RNC, that is. Again, party affiliation only gets mentioned when it makes Republicans look evil or Democrats look good. Note: I don't like either party. I just find the pattern to be interesting.

  • 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 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:11AM (#27312037)

    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.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:15AM (#27312097)

    1/ don't speed and there's no picture taken so no invasion of your privacy

    These cameras have nothing to do with speeding. They are red light cameras, taking pictures when the yellow light time was shorted below state and or federal times.

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

    Right, because no city would ever illegally shorten yellow light time to raise funds. Even though it's been, you know, documented that they have.

    Finally, I'd like to add this; if an overwhelming majority of people don't want red light cameras, I'd argue that the government doesn't have a right to use public money to install and operate them, regardless of any supposed benefits. In this case though, the cameras create more problems then they solve, which is why they shouldn't have been installed in the first place.

    Lenghtening yellow light times has been proven to decrease ALL accident types, where-as red light cameras trade t-bone type accidents for rear-end collisions.

  • 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!

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:21AM (#27312203) Homepage Journal
    When red light cameras are installed, invariably the yellow light duration is reduced to ensure that more people are caught in the intersection. Eventually, this causes more accidents as people start slamming on the brakes when they see a yellow and get rear-ended.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:24AM (#27312245)

    You are approaching an intersection with a green light.
    The light flickers yellow for a half second and turns red.

    A half second is less than normal human reaction time.


    You are on a section of road going 40mph with a 40mph speed limit.
    As you round a bend, the speed limit drops to 30mph, you are ticketed.


    You are on a section of road with a 30mph speed limit. Like everyone else, you are driving 35mph. All of you are surveilled.


    As a lot of politicians, preachers, and others discovered, privacy is the grease that makes life works. It gives us room to hide our private foibles and live otherwise normal lives. No one can live up to the standards of society all the time but our punishments are based on the concept that unless you were ridiculous about them, you would rarely be caught. With cameras everywhere, the standards for being caught go way down while the punishments remain tuned to the old standards of being caught. Without any change in the law, society becomes more oppressive.


    The home inspectors in my city used to work about 6 hours a day and hang out about 2 hours a day, sometimes drop by home to do errands-- for decades. They made a certain salary for the job. They were expected to inspect a certain number of houses a week.

    Then some nimrod put GPS sensors in their cars and started busting them for these behaviors and expecting 8 hours a day work without changing the salary. Effectively cutting the pay for the job by 25% to 33%. Very oppressive- and it will result over time in either higher turnover or higher salaries.

  • by viridari ( 1138635 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:24AM (#27312251)

    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.

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

    by ClintJCL ( 264898 ) <clintjcl+slashdot@gma i l . com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:29AM (#27312323) Homepage Journal
    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. :)
  • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#27312477)

    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 the speed limit is set too low. Speed also isn't the only factor in setting yellow light time: http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/reports/rlcreport5.asp [thenewspaper.com]

    Here's the interesting thing; engineers say the speed limits should be set according to what almost everyone will do anyway on that road. That's the safest speed limit. So you're faulting people for violating laws which are incorrectly implemented for political reasons... you're part of the problem, I'm afraid. Until you demand that states and cities follow engineering guidelines and stop passing laws which just happen to make a lot of people money, you're part of the problem. Please, do your research and come back.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_limit#85th_percentile_rule [wikipedia.org]

  • 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 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:Wow... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:51AM (#27312679)

    "If the far side of the intersection is not clear, you're not supposed to enter. So yes, it's sort of fair."

    Either it's fair or it's not. What's this "sort of" crap?

    No, it's not fair. Some cities have ridiculously huge intersections, well beyond that of a 2 second delay between cars. A regular case is a pedestrian who's been loitering at the corner who suddenly turns and crosses, causing the front car to (correctly) yield. Given the stupid inconsideration of the pedestrian who just crosses blindly, they often are oblivious to how late and slow in the traffic light cycle they are. Drive in front of you gets blocked. You and 2-4 cars behind you get blocked. I've seen this happen in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and DC. When I was in DC, the traffic cameras were snapping away.

    Also, at 40mph through a typical intersectin of 30 feet (usually lanes are what, 10-15 feet wide in a modern street) in suburbia, there is no way a 2 second delay plus human reaction time can cause you to recognize the front vehicle who slams on their brakes to avoid a left turning vehicle in time to NOT be in the intersection.

    I also challenge you to put up the statute and the state where you say this pseudo-law of yours applies. I've read my state's, and there is nothing like this. There is a blocking the intersection, but it's based on expectation and concept, not going through a green light with traffic at the time moving in an orderly and proper fashion.

    The fact your post is a +4 insightful is rather telling on the moderators here on /. Either stupid, young, inexperienced, or urban dwellers who don't drive.

  • by WankersRevenge ( 452399 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:58AM (#27312763)
    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 yellow, then you make your turn since traffic has somewhat abated. It's no shocker to see at least three cars blow through the red because there would be no other way to cross.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:06PM (#27312885)

    Running a red is a moving violation.

    In most places that use them, these cameras issue non-moving citations. That's how they get around proving who was driving.

    So it's not realistic to say you get the penalty for running a red. Really they've created an entirely separate offense.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khendron ( 225184 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:18PM (#27313047) Homepage

    Sometimes hard to do.

    The other day I was in a traffic jam, at a green light. Since there was no room to clear the intersection I waited at the stop line. Soon there was enough room for a single car, so I proceeded into the intersection, but before I was across a guy in the crossing road turned right and took up the empty space, leaving me stuck in the intersection when the light turned red.

    The guy who turned right broke the law, but I was the one who got snapped by the camera.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) * <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @12:49PM (#27313737) Homepage

    In the UK the camera takes a picture just before you cross the line & after. Also they don't go 'live' until the lights have been red for 1.5 seconds, so you don't have the 'I was unable to stop in time' defence (unless like me you'd only passed your test the day before and had shitty reactions). They also record the speed you're travelling, so if you crept over at 5mph for example they'd assume you were in the process of stopping and probably let it pass. If you're doing 40... you're hosed.

You are always doing something marginal when the boss drops by your desk.