In 2009, Mississippi legislators passed a new law designed to prohibit the use of traffic cameras anywhere within the state. Unfortunately, an Arizona-based company called American Traffic Solutions had already contracted with two Mississippi counties to install and maintain such cameras. Their contract was signed in 2008, a full year before the new ban went into place. No plan was in place to compensate companies which had signed contracts for traffic camera installation and maintenance.
Now, American Traffic Solutions is suing Mississippi saying that their property and their right to do business in the state were impinged upon by the new law. But Mississippi lawmakers are so far unrepentant.
Legislators say the new law is designed to protect the privacy rights of Mississippi citizens. They view the use of traffic cameras, which automatically record license plate number numbers of vehicles which violate intersection law, an intrusion of personal privacy and say their support of the ban is a step in the right direction toward protecting their citizens.
The company, American Traffic Solutions, says it has been damaged by the state law and seeks compensation for the loss of their property and the value of their contracts.
Whether or not the cameras were helping promote public safety is debatable according to legislators, but local law enforcement officials say traffic crashes at intersections where cameras were in place declined 60 percent when the cameras were on. Also, the communities where the cameras were located collected an additional $600,000 in traffic fines due to the cameras.
The debate over whether or not traffic cameras are “fair” seems to hinder acceptance of the facts: They increase public safety by forcing motorists to proceed safely through intersections, not run stop signs and traffic lights, and be more cautious when they get behind the wheel.
Doubtless, nobody is happy to get a traffic citation, but if the cameras work to improve public safety, what’s the issue?