The city of Milwaukee suffers from a problem plaguing the entire country. Too many drivers are running red lights.
The AAA reports in a recent study that more than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers running red lights. Milwaukee is no exception.
As of late June reckless driving has caused 20 serious injuries and 19 fatalities in Milwaukee this year, including the death of Milwaukee police officer Kou Her. Statewide, the most recent crash data available shows 939 people were killed in red light running crashes in 2017 — a 10-year high and a 22% increase over the average from 2008-2016. In Wisconsin, there were 22 such fatalities in 2017, a 150% increase over the 2008-2016 average.
Some WI lawmakers believe red-light cameras would reduce red-light running crashes. But Wisconsin doesn’t allow the technology.
Senate Bill 385 would allow law enforcement agencies in Milwaukee to photograph vehicles going through a red light and those speeding more than 21 miles per hour. The bill is co-sponsored by State Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, and State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee. Co-sponsors include State Rep. Ken Skowronski, R-Franklin, and State Rep. Jesse Rodriguez, R-Oak Creek.
From the text of the bill:
Under current law, law enforcement officers may not use any radar device
combined with photographic identification of a vehicle to determine compliance with motor vehicle speed limits. Under this bill, local law enforcement agencies in a first class city (Milwaukee) may use an ASES to determine compliance with speed limits. With exceptions, the vehicle owner is subject to a forfeiture for a speed limit violation detected by an ASES. However, no traffic citation may be issued for a speed limit violation for which the ASES indicated a speed of less than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit alleged to be violated. The owner is subject to the same forfeiture that would be applicable to the vehicle operator for the violation.
This bill also authorizes the leadership of a first class city to enact an ordinance
that permits the use of a TCPS on highways under the jurisdiction of the city to detect motor vehicles that fail to properly stop at red traffic signals at intersections. A TCPS is an electronic system that automatically produces photographs of motor vehicles traveling through an intersection. With exceptions, the vehicle owner may be subject to a forfeiture for a traffic signal violation detected by a TCPS of not more than the amount provided for a traffic signal violation under current law, currently between $40 to $100.
As CBS News recently reported, the cameras are controversial.
Lee Wickert, an associate attorney with Matthiesen, Wickert and Lehrer made this concession in a blog he wrote.
“As you might imagine, most intersection accidents involving the running of a red light … are likely to produce photographic evidence which can prove one party to the accident a victim and the other a liar. It is like Christmas for trial lawyers.”
The Texas Dept. of Transportation reports “Camera equipment costs vary based on the type of camera, the complexity of the intersection, and technical requirements. A red light camera system installation can cost more than $100,000.” A city of Milwaukee official has indicated that if the Legislature approved the bill the city would begin a pilot program at about 50 intersections.
Proponents of the cameras submit crashes increase when a state like Texas bans and removes them. But a 2017 study by Case Western Reserve University found red light cameras changed the types of accidents occurring, but not the frequency of accidents or injuries.
The WI bill is authored by Democrats, but Republicans control the Legislature that historically has had a strong bias against the city of Milwaukee.
I recall the concept of photo radar being very unpopular in Wisconsin in the 1990’s, so I wonder about the reception for this bill and doubt it will go very far.
Finally, Governing.com reports “Despite the safety benefits, the number of jurisdictions in the country using red-light cameras has declined every year since 2012.” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) told the website there’s a reason communities enact bans of the equipment. “People don’t like to get tickets,” Rader said.