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Biloxi Among Nine Cities in Mississippi Considering the Use of Traffic Cameras for Enforcement
Studies Find Traffic Cameras Increase Accidents

by Keith Burton - GCN  2/2/07

Biloxi, along with nine other Mississippi cities, is considering the use of traffic cameras for enforcement of traffic regulations at several key intersections. But studies in England and in other states where Red Light Cameras (RLC) have been used have found that the cameras actually increase accidents at intersections as well as injuries.

The issue over using the cameras was raised in a story that first appeared in the Tupelo-based Northeast Mississippi Journal.

Studies over the use the cameras in England, Virginia, North Carolina, Australia and elsewhere found that the RLCs increased accidents.

The Virginia Department of Transportation commissioned a study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council of the camera's use. The study of all seven Virginia red light camera programs found an overall increase in injury accidents has occurred where the devices were installed.

In a North Carolina study, the researchers said, "In many ways, the evidence points toward the installation of RLCs as a detriment to safety."

Traffic cameras are not new. Most people are familiar with cameras monitoring traffic on roadways and bridges and in tunnels, but cameras used at intersections for traffic enforcement are not that common.

GCN contacted Biloxi Public Affairs Manager Vincent Creel about the proposal on using the cameras in Biloxi:

"That story originated in Tupelo, which is looking to use cameras for traffic enforcement. City leaders there apparently sought an attorney generalís opinion asking if they had the authority to use cameras for traffic enforcement at key intersections. I didnít see the request nor the opinion itself, but apparently they were given the green light, so to speak.

 Anyway, police departments share information, and thatís how the prospect came to light here. Our department is merely gathering information, as it unfolds in Tupelo. As you might expect, cost and benefit are going to be the driving factors; any decision on whether to employ cameras in this manner will be made here at City Hall, and I donít think any decision is imminent since the issue is still unfolding in Tupelo. Frankly, we still donít have traffic signals at a number of intersections, at this point, much less cameras.

Your info about cameras actually increasing the numbers of accidents at intersections is intriguing. Any decision would take all aspects into consideration. As I mentioned to the Tupelo reporter, some residents may view use of cameras in this manner as a case of Big Brother looking over their shoulder. Fact is, though, driving on city streets is a privilege, not a right; and this would be a measure to help make that drive safer. As you can see, we are sensitive to the issues on this matter.

From the public affairs managerís standpoint, I am an advocate of public-access cameras on bridges and high-volume roadways Ė cameras that Joe Doe Citizen can look at online to gauge the flow of traffic (ďIs the bridge open, closed, or stuck?Ē). MDOT has a number of traffic cameras throughout the state, but alas, the two positioned atop the Beau Rivage, which worked sporadically before the storm, have been out of service since Aug. 29."

The cities considering the use of the cameras are:
Biloxi
Columbus
Jackson
Meridian
Oxford
Ridgeland
Southaven
Starkville
Tupelo
Vicksburg

In other cities where RLCs have been used the cameras are widely criticized by residents for being intrusive and ticketing vehicle owners, but not necessarily the driver, and for the revenue the cameras generate from violators. There are cases where the traffic lights are actually set to increase the likelihood of violations.


More Information:

Virginia DOT Study Shows Cameras Increase Injury Accidents (Has links to other studies)
 

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