In The News
Jul/Aug 2009 Issue

Mississippi law puts the brakes on red light cameras

The Mississippi Legislature recently enacted a law that bans the use of all “automated recording devices,” specifically photo enforcement such as red light running cameras and automated speed cameras.

Originally drafted to ensure that any tickets generated by such automated devices as red light cameras would not be reported to the driver’s automobile insurance company, the measure was amended to ban all automated recording devices and was overwhelmingly supported in the House by a 117-3 vote. It secured equally strong support in the Senate and was signed into law by the governor.

Mississippi’s actions may signal a growing trend nationwide in opposition to automated traffic enforcement devices. Mississippi joins 12 other states that have enacted either outright bans on automated traffic enforcement devices or have severely limited their use, and others are considering it. For instance, in Arkansas, the use of photo radar is prohibited except at school zones and railroad crossings, and an officer must be present and the citation must be issued at the time of the offense.

Reviews of red-light camera effectiveness conclude that they increase rear-end crashes, reduce side-impact crashes and reduce overall injury crashes by as much as 25 percent. However, many states with laws allowing for automated traffic enforcement are facing a backlash from motorists who argue that lawmakers have become so blinded by the devices’ revenue-generating capabilities that any notions of safety have become a distant concern.

As of this publication’s press deadline, Louisiana lawmakers were considering a ban on automated traffic enforcement devices. In the meantime, red light cameras are being used in Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish, where an estimated 8,000 red light running citations based on photo enforcement are issued each month, generating more than $10 million for the parish annually.

The cash-strapped city of New Orleans also has begun installing red light running and speed cameras throughout the city. However, the criticism that officials are turning to automated traffic enforcement devices solely to generate funds was not lost on the City Council in Shreveport, La., which recently banned photo enforcement in the city.

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