Reckless driving is a problem in a lot of places, especially the city of Milwaukee.
The city and the county have teamed up to tackle the issue. On Monday, the task force looking at the issue held another meeting.
The number of fatalities due to car accidents is down, according to the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). But driving around the city can sometimes feel like a harrowing experience: people speeding by in the bike lane on the right, running red lights, and sometimes even people driving in the lane of oncoming traffic attempting to speed by you.
Members of the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force are looking at a number of options to make driving safer for everyone. MPD Assistant Chief Michael Brunson says the Reckless Driving Partner Initiative went into effect on May 1.
“There’s been 1,181 citations issued during that initiative. We’ve identified those intersections, those street segments in which crashes and speeding is most prevalent. And we deploy to those areas to engage in enforcement activities to, obviously, attempt to reduce the number of individuals who are speeding and driving recklessly,” Brunson says.
In previous years, those hotspots have been publicized. While law enforcement aren’t saying the areas they are targeting, they did acknowledge 60th Street and Capitol Drive in Milwaukee. That’s where officer Kou Her was hit and killed by a drunk driver about a week ago.
While the committee is looking for new ways to tackle the issues, it’s also questioning current practices, such as driver's license suspension for non-driving offenses. A lot of people cited for reckless driving don’t have a license.
Joy Hammond, assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County, says having a driver's license suspended used to mean something.
"It really doesn’t mean much now because people just continue to drive. It’s become so important, everyone needs to drive. So having a suspended driver's license really is no impediment as far as — we’re not gonna to keep them off the streets because we suspended their license. What we’ve done is now created a new crime for them to commit while they’re out on the streets,” Hammond says.
Hammond says one thing the task force is considering is car boots. She says it’s a tactic deployed in a number of states that stops people from driving. State laws were recently changed that would allow the use of boots.
Another possible solution: red light cameras. Though, they aren't currently legal in Wisconsin. In Chicago, those cameras have led to only a 15% decrease in the number of t-bones and a 22% increase in rear ends. While the task force is exploring a host of options, community member Celia Jackson urges that they should not all be punitive.
“Clearly, there have to be consequences for peoples’ actions. But at the same time, I think we have to be looking at the root causes. How do we deter these things at the outset?” Jackson says.
Jackson says MPD needs to rethink its chase policy. She says it’s not working yet innocent people are being put in dangerous situations. The task force aims to finish up its work by the end of the summer.