‘Wait and see’ smart on traffic cameras in city

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 30, 2008

Word from City Hall that Vicksburg will not jump on the traffic camera bandwagon is welcome.

Mayor Laurence Leyens, with apparent concurrence from South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, said last week the offer of a free demonstration project at two intersections would be declined until or unless the vendor can show the cameras do lead to improved safety.

Other Mississippi cities have not taken this approach. Indeed, several have been unable to resist RedSpeed Mississippi and the siren song of more money for their local treasuries via a 50-50 split of fines collected from drivers who run red lights or stop signs or make illegal turns.

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Reduction of accidents has been part of the pledge, too. And that’s why Leyens said, if that effect is proved elsewhere, cameras might be installed here.

The challenge of “safety” is that it is an incremental proposition. The question is how far to go. Banning alcohol would reduce accidents. Requiring people to wear helmets in addition to seat belts would reduce injuries. But if that wasn’t enough, the city could just do away with streets and ban the use of motor vehicles completely. Ridiculous? Yes. But very, very safe. The community could eliminate all car wrecks — 100 percent of them — by eliminating cars. And save a lot of money, too.

Irresponsible driving does create hazards. Citizens have every justification for expecting local government to design and maintain good roads and well-marked and lighted intersections. Violators should expect to be fined. Traffic cameras may well be the next logical step for Vicksburg, especially at intersections where wrecks frequently occur. But first the data should be studied. On balance, if the cameras don’t yield safety improvements commensurate with the aggravation, then a continuing “no thanks” is appropriate.