Barbour OKs red-light camera ban

March 23, 2009



Gov. Haley Barbour has signed into law a ban on traffic cameras used to photograph and ticket people who run red lights. 


The state Legislature earlier this month passed the bill prohibiting the cameras amid public outrage they''re government surveillance gone overboard being used to generate more money for cities. 


Columbus has one red-light camera -- at the intersection of 14th Avenue North and Waterworks Road -- but the City Council voted last week to take it down. 


Barbour signed House Bill 1568 on Friday after making sure it didn''t prohibit in-car cameras used by police and those used at toll-road pay stations, said Dan Turner, the governor''s press secretary. 


"He received assurances from the Mississippi Highway Patrol that the legislation would not hamper the use of dashboard cameras and from (the state Department of Transportation) that it would not adversely impact any toll-road projects," Turner said. 


State legislators were bombarded with requests from constituents to prohibit local governments from using the red-light cameras. 


The bill bans cities and counties from using cameras to record motorists as they''re running red lights and fine them based on the photographed evidence of their car-license plates. 


Supporters of the surveillance cameras say statistics prove they deter people from running red lights, reduce auto accidents and save lives. 


The Federal Highway Administration cites statistics showing red-light violations and crashes were reduced in cities after installing traffic cameras. For example, in Oxnard, Calif., intersection collisions declined by 32 percent. 


At least 18 states have laws allowing the red-light cameras, but about six states have banned or severely restricted their use, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. 


Makers of the red-light cameras -- who had urged Barbour to veto the bill -- said the new law tramples on local governments'' rights to enact their own traffic ordinances. It also could unlawfully sever contracts cities already have with the companies to install and operate the cameras. 


"Banning these life-saving safety programs is not only bad for public safety, but it will have much broader ramifications as it would infringe on home rule for cities and counties and would nullify existing business contracts in violation of (the state Constitution)," said Josh Weiss, director of communications and public affairs for American Traffic Solutions Inc., a red-light camera contractor.