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Milwaukee lawmakers eye red light cameras, steeper fines for repeat reckless driving offenders

Rep. Myers says she’s also working on brand new legislation that would mandate larger fines for those who repeatedly receive reckless driving citations. State law currently allows the fine to be $200.
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Posted at 7:46 PM, Jan 03, 2023

MADISON, Wis. — Several lawmakers are hopeful the new Wisconsin legislative session brings a new opportunity to deliver solutions for Milwaukee’s reckless driving problem.

Democratic lawmakers representing Milwaukee say they’re pushing for two bills this month that would essentially create or stiffen fines for reckless drivers who are caught by either a camera or an officer. Republican representatives say they’re less interested in raising fines and more focused on prison sentences for the worst offenders.

As a new legislative session begins in Madison, one democratic representative says her top priority is changing laws to deter dangerous driving behaviors on the streets of Milwaukee.

Rep. LaKeisha Myers is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would allow Milwaukee to install up to 75 red light cameras to catch those who speed 20 m.p.h. over the limit and those who run red lights.

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The bill isn’t new. Rep. Myers says it’s the same one that failed to pass the legislature each of the past five years. Despite its record, Myers says she’s optimistic for a different outcome.

“I think {there’s} overwhelming support from our local law enforcement, from our local community, and from the people who live in the city of Milwaukee,” she said. “They have been crying out for some help for some time.”

Rep. Myers says she’s also working on brand new legislation that would mandate larger fines for those who repeatedly receive reckless driving citations. Currently, state law allows the fine to be $200 no matter how many a driver gets.

Rep. Myers says she’s in the process of trying to convince enough lawmakers to support raising the cost to roughly $500 for a second offense and up to roughly $1,000 for a third offense or more.

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“I don’t want to just do something in name only,” she said. “I like actual results so if that’s not to the flavor of the party that’s in charge then it won’t go anywhere.”

Republicans hold majority control in both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature. Newly sworn-in Republican Representative Bob Donovan says he has one major concern with both bills.

“The individuals who are really responsible for wreaking the havoc on our streets, they don’t give a damn about tickets,” he said. “They laugh at tickets.”

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Rep. Donovan believes Milwaukee can only tame its reckless driving problem if its worst offenders are prosecuted in criminal court.

“If Milwaukee is serious about this reckless driving situation, they need to put the individuals responsible behind bars,” he said. “They need to be punished.”

Rep. Donovan says he supports a legislative idea Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm first brought up to TMJ4 a few months ago. It would elevate the felony offense of stealing a vehicle to allow for a maximum sentence of five years behind bars rather than 18 months. Rep. Donovan believes stolen vehicles too often become instruments for reckless driving.

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“It’s a crisis situation in Milwaukee and it’s a crisis situation because the individuals responsible have not been adequately held responsible for their crimes. And that’s what needs to occur,” Rep. Donovan said.

Out of those three reckless driving proposals, only one has a legislative bill at this point. It’s called the Safe Roads Save Lives Act for the red light camera pilot program.

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