Driving in Milwaukee can be a harrowing experience. From people whipping by passing in bike and bus lanes to people blowing through red lights.
On Monday, city leaders announced a new program aimed at ending reckless driving. The public-private pilot program is being made possible by donations from private companies.
A police vehicle was used as a barricade to partially block those participating in the press conference at the intersection where three streets come together on the near south side: West Greenfield, South Cesar Chavez and South Muskego Avenue. Boy Scouts held up signs that read "Take it EZ Milwaukee," which is also the name of the new pilot program.
Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton addressed people crowded into the area by first pulling together all the elected city officials present.
“We really want to give you the visual that there’s no section of the city that’s not impacted by reckless driving. It’s every section of the city,” Hamilton says.
The program, which will feature increased enforcement and billboard messages urging people to take it easy, will target four intersections: 76th and Morgan Avenue, Miller Parkway and National Avenue, Interstate 43 and Juneau Avenue, and Interstate 41 and Bluemound Road.
Alderman Cavalier Johnson’s district includes 60th and Capitol Drive where several high-profile accidents have occurred, including the accident that took the like of Milwaukee Police Officer Kou Her. He was hit by a drunk driver while on his way home from work.
“The thing that is frustrating to me and frustrating to so many people is that there are men and women, there are grandparents, dads and moms that are affected by this. They can’t let their kids go outside and play because they’re afraid of what somebody might do when they get behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound missile. And that’s unfair. That’s robbing children of their opportunity to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment,” Johnson says.
In 2017, there were 42 fatal accidents in the city of Milwaukee. Stepped up enforcement began in 2018 and that number dropped to 31. So far this year, there have been 23 fatal accidents.
Alderman Bob Donovan is behind getting the program up and running.
“One thing that I am most proud of is the buy in from the private sector. These three funders, it only took two meetings and two phone calls to get that $15,000 donated to this effort. I am absolutely convinced that if we can make a success of this, we will see an even higher level of funding for this effort from the private sector,” Donovan says.
Clear Channel is donating the billboards. The law firm Hupy and Abraham, Operation Impact (a public private partnership that uses increased patrols and cameras in high crime areas), and the Kohl Law firm also put forth money.
The program is modeled after one from the 1970s in Racine that lawmakers say was successful. The pilot will run from Aug. 1 through October.