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Gov. Tony Evers signs 2 news bills to address reckless driving and carjacking

Tony Evers signing reckless driving bills in Milwaukee
Kobe Brown
Tony Evers signing reckless driving bills in Milwaukee

Wisconsin has two new laws that are meant to curb reckless driving and carjacking. On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers spoke at a bill signing ceremony at Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church in Milwaukee.

"Wisconsin, like so many states across the country, are seeing a trend in deadly traffic crashes and risky driving behaviors like speeding and reckless driving. This is putting folks and families — and especially our kids — at risk, and communities all across our state. And the consequences can be tragic. According to the DOT, about 2,900 people are injured by a reckless driver every year, and in 2021, reckless driving killed 113 people. This issue affects all of us," says Evers.

One bill that Evers signed makes carjacking a formal crime. Until now, someone who used force or threatened force to steal a vehicle could be charged with operating the vehicle without the owner's consent. Now, anyone who steals a car by force without using a weapon faces up to 15 years in prison. Anyone who uses a weapon in a carjacking could face up to 60 years in prison. That's 20 years longer than the previous maximum sentence.

The second bill increases the penalties for reckless driving. Fine and forfeiture ranges increased to a maximum of $400 for a first offense and $1,000 for a subsequent offense. Reckless drivers who cause great bodily harm face sentences of up to six years in prison. The previous maximum was three and a half years.

Abby Strong was on hand for the bill signing ceremony. Her husband, Aaron, was killed by a reckless driver seven months ago when Aaron was on his way to church.

She says her pain over her husband's death motivated her to advocate for families of victims who have lost loved ones to reckless driving.

"So, while tragic and heartbreaking Aaron losing his life serves a bigger purpose. Helping to protect and improve the quality of life for the citizens of Wisconsin," says Strong.

The bills passed with bipartisan support. But some critics argue that punitive measures don't do enough to curb reckless driving. And Democratic state Representative Supreme Moore Omokunde of Milwaukee says the higher fines will "fall hardest on disadvantaged communities."

Support for the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship is provided, in part, by Chris Abele.

Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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