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Mississippi outlaws red-light cameras

Mississippi lawmakers have put a stop to the use of red-light cameras in the state. Other states also are looking into rule changes on camera use.

Gov. Haley Barbour signed into law a bill banning the use of cameras to tickets motorists and others who run red lights. Previously HB1568, the new law also forces communities already using the devices to remove them by Oct. 1.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicles. A $75 ticket is mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Supporters say the cameras are about safety and about using technology in a helpful way. Others say the devices free up police to address bigger issues.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have questioned the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents. In fact, multiple studies have found that crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras.

Mississippi is not alone this year in addressing the topic of red-light camera use at statehouses. Montana lawmakers have looked at prohibiting the use of the devices at intersections while Arizona lawmakers want to outlaw them from highways.

Lawmakers in Alabama, Connecticut, Nebraska and New Hampshire offered bills to authorize the use of red-light cameras. A bill in Indiana would give the green light to 10 cities to place cameras at stoplights.

Meanwhile, an effort in Missouri would require police to positively identify drivers by face, not by the vehicle, before tickets can be issued.

A Florida bill would require local governments to adopt their own ordinances to put the program in place while a New Mexico measure would limit how much cities can fine violators caught on camera for running red lights.

A Maryland bill would authorize speed cameras to be posted in highway construction zones. In addition, officials in Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Howard counties have offered separate proposals to set up cameras.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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