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Milwaukee Mayor Johnson, Common Ground ask insurance companies to fund more drivers education

Two people at a table
Chuck Quirmbach
Brenda McMurtry of Common Ground and Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson prepare to sign a letter to three insurance companies, asking the firms to pay for more drivers education programs in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's mayor and a coalition of churches, schools and neighborhood groups are asking three large insurance companies to help pay for more drivers education for high school students.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson and the group Common Ground signed a letter to insurance firms American Family, State Farm and Progressive at a city hall ceremony Tuesday.

Common Ground strategy team member Brenda McMurtry said the hope is that more well-trained young drivers will mean less of the reckless driving she has witnessed.

"I've been at many stop lights, and people just go right through the lights, as if it's green. I've seen a lot of speed racing, and I was in the middle of a police chase one day that scared me," McMurtry told WUWM.

Johnson told a news conference that he wants more younger drivers to learn some basics.

"They should know things like passing on the right is wrong. They ought to know that a yellow traffic signal does not mean speed up. And, they should know that tailgating is not a way to ask the car in front of you to go faster," Johnson said.

The Milwaukee Public School Recreation Department (Milwaukee Recreation) offers two drivers ed programs, but officials say they're often full, and there can be a permit cost. MPS says thousands of students miss out on drivers ed, even with an expansion that started about six years ago.

Johnson said he hopes the insurance companies will see that paying to further expand drivers ed will pay off.

Jim Buchheim, community and social impact officer at American Family Insurance
Photo from American Family website
Jim Buchheim, community and social impact officer at American Family Insurance

"We could end up in a situation where the calls on them, for reckless driving related crashes would go down, if more people had sound fundamentals in driving," Johnson said.

WUWM contacted Progressive, State Farm and American Family for reaction to the drivers ed proposal. So far, only Madison-based American Family has replied.

The company's social impact officer, Jim Buchheim, says he's interested in learning more about Common Ground's Universal Driver Education Campaign. The firm also says it's been talking with a number of Milwaukee neighborhood groups about ways to address reckless driving.

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