By LaKeshia N. Myers
Street racing, “red light roulette”, and driving on sidewalks—all of these things are reckless driving realities across the state of Wisconsin and especially in the city of Milwaukee.
These are the reasons I support a holistic approach to curb reckless driving and the first step in this process would be changing state statute and approving the use of red light cameras.
The ‘Safe Roads Save Lives Act’, is a bill that would allow the use of automated speed enforcement systems (ASES) to identify speed limit violations. This legislation creates a five-year pilot program in the City of Milwaukee that is aimed at curbing reckless driving. I believe this measure would aid the Milwaukee Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit, who within the first seven months of operation has issued more than 14,000 citations. Creation of the Traffic Safety Unit was a great start, however, the burden of curbing reckless driving is not the sole responsibility of police. It is incumbent on policymakers to use every available tool to help alleviate this problem, and red light cameras are one such mechanism that can aid in that process.
I do understand that there are concerns from community members about equity when using photo enforcement. Some have asked if Black and Brown communities will be targeted and over enforced. The answer is, “no”. The way the legislation is designed would place no more than five cameras in each aldermanic district and each aldermanic district would have cameras. Others have asked if the cameras would catch individuals who drive cars without license plates. The answer to this question is, “no”. This particular piece of legislation would address only those who fail to stop at red lights. In order to crack down on drivers of vehicles not displaying tags, we must change state law to expand the scope of authority for law enforcement. That bill is forthcoming.
You might also be wondering how red light cameras fare with those who steal vehicles. If a vehicle has been reported stolen and the thief runs a red light, the owner will have the ticket dismissed. The same goes for individuals who obtain a ticket while driving a vehicle they don’t own. In this instance, the owner would need to alert authorities the name of the motorist, and that individual would then be responsible for the ticket.
I urge the community to remember that participation in photo enforcement is voluntary; if you don’t speed or run red lights—you won’t get a ticket. We as a community must help govern ourselves and this legislation helps us to do this. It takes a village, and this legislation is just a first step in helping the village protect itself. It is time for us to move beyond talk, we must act responsibly and utilize all tools at our disposal.
*originally published in October 2021*