MILWAUKEE — Alderman Russell Stamper II, representing Milwaukee's 15th district, is calling on residents to do their part to halt reckless driving that is claiming an ever rising number of lives.
Reckless drivers killed two people in his district just three days and three miles apart. The city has witnessed 14 fatal crashes caused by reckless driving so far this year. Now the alderman is urging residents to take ownership of their community, by talking to their younger community members and making sure they follow the rules of the road meant to keep the peace.
"As a community we cannot be complicit. It is costing us too many lives and endangering the safety of good-natured people," Stamper wrote in a statement Thursday.
"We need our men to talk to young men, our women to talk to young women, and our community-based organizations, clergy members, teachers, elected officials, media members, and especially parents to talk to the young people about following basic, essential traffic rules," Stamper writes.
Just on Sunday, the city's new towing policy went into effect. Milwaukee police are now towing some unregistered vehicles in an attempt to curb the city's chronic reckless driving problem. In addition to being unregistered, vehicles that are caught doing one of the following will be towed: driving recklessly, speeding in excess of 25 MPH, fleeing an office or street racing.
Gov. Tony Evers earmarked $3.5 million in ARPA funding for Milwaukee County to address reckless driving and improve infrastructure and roads earlier this year. Stamper said Thursday that he and his fellow aldermen and alderwomen are working to use funds to create "traffic calming infrastructure." Stamper said he will also work with local police to make sure drivers are following the law, particularly in the hot spots of reckless driving along Lisbon, 20th, Walnut, Sherman, and Fond du Lac.
According to Milwaukee Police, in just the past five months, there have been at least eight crashes within 100 feet of 35th and Lisbon.
"But that will only get us so far. We need people to change their behaviors," Stamper writes.
Details on the most recent fatal crashes due to reckless driving
Surveillance video shows just how fast a driver sped through a red light at 35th and Lisbon, crashing into a car that struck and killed Yolanda Baxter, 39. Her aunt tells TMJ4 Yolanda was loved dearly and should still be here.
Just before that crash early Tuesday, Baxter stopped at The Key Spot on 35th, to buy a juice and snack. It was a daily ritual for her. She lived a few blocks away.
The owner of the convenience store, Meak Key, feared it would come to this.
“I’m sad to say I knew it was eventually going to happen, just because of how dangerous this corner is,” Key said. “And if something is not done, it won't be the last time someone loses their life here.”
Key says he witnesses reckless driving and close calls at this intersection every day. He warns his customers not to stand outside the store, even though it is a bus stop.
“I try to tell them to keep it moving, or to go stand on the other side of the building, because the drivers out here are so dangerous,” Key said.
“It’s the speeding and disregard for traffic laws and traffic lights,” Key said
Just three days earlier, and three miles away, Gerald Newton, 72, was killed while standing at the corner of 20th and Burleigh.
Fred Fojut considered Newton family. Fojut opened his home to Newton nearly 10 years ago.
“He was a retired Vietnam veteran who went through some tough times,” Fojut said. “He was always willing to help friends and family out. He was also a big movie buff. He loved movies. He was just a good guy. It is so sad his life ended in this way. My family is taking it one day at a time.”
Surveillance video shows the moment a driver sped through a red light and crashed into another vehicle. The impact sent the car driven by the reckless driver into Newton.
“It's horrible,” Fojut said. “People really, really, really need to slow down. It is very unsafe on these roads. I am a professional bus driver. I drive kids every day. I see dangerous driving every day, and we are coming up on summer, when more people are going to be walking and playing outside.”
We reached out to see if the reckless drivers in these cases have been charged. Milwaukee Police and the Milwaukee County District Attorney do not have any updates on charges as of Wednesday.
The other people involved in each crash are expected to make full recoveries.