Ald. Bob Donovan
Press Release

Red Light Cameras Are Not the Cure for What Ails Milwaukee

A Long-Term Solution to Reckless Driving Will Require Leadership

By - Feb 25th, 2020 09:10 am

I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that Mayor Tom Barrett has been stirred to action on the problem of reckless driving. Likely responding to the Wisconsin Policy Forum’s recent report of the disproportionate effect reckless driving has had on people of color, the Mayor was quoted in the press yesterday at last expressing his support for so-called “red light cameras”.

I would first observe that the City has been asking the State of Wisconsin for permission to install these cameras for years. It makes me wonder where the Mayor’s been all this time.

As to their merits, I would call myself a reluctant convert to the case for red light camera. Should it come to me while still in office, I will review any proposal for their implementation with a healthy dose of skepticism. I think those who argue they are prone to error, can disproportionately affect the poor, and can turn innocent driving mistakes into expensive violations have a point. And with the worst violators, the dangerous repeat offenders, do we really imagine that they will have any more respect for a citation than they do for a red light?

Given the severity of the problem, though, I am and have been willing at least to listen. I have no use, however, for the idea that we can substitute red light cameras for real reforms – reforms that many, including the Mayor, have seemed to ignore or resist. Until district attorneys and judges start treating reckless driving in all forms as a serious offense – potentially even resulting in imprisonment – there will be no real change. Until there are enough police officers assigned to patrol our streets and enforce our laws there will, similarly, be no real change.

I invite all of you to read the report of the Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force ably chaired by my colleague, Ald. Michael Murphy. It is a difficult read. It tells a story of a community that seems to know where the problems really are but too often lacks the political will to do the heavy lifting, favoring instead shiny objects like red light cameras which, if nothing else, seem easy.

It took a long time to create the dangerous environment in which we find ourselves. It will take time and effort to find our way out. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

Mentioned in This Press Release

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Red Light Cameras Are Not the Cure for What Ails Milwaukee

A Long-Term Solution to Reckless Driving Will Require Leadership

2 thoughts on “Red Light Cameras Are Not the Cure for What Ails Milwaukee”

  1. Research shows red light cameras stop fatal crashes. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety research).

    “From the time they went into operation through 2014, red-light cameras across all 79 large U.S. cities included in the study saved nearly 1,300 lives, IIHS concluded.”

    https://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/27/they-may-be-annoying-but-red-light-cameras-save-lives-iihs.html

  2. Thomas Martinsen says:

    John December shares credible research on this issue. It will take leadership to promote these cameras as a step in solving the larger problem of increasingly reckless driving. I would trust Barrett to tackle this problem one step at a time. I would think twice before I awarded the perpetually partisan Donovan with any credibility whatsoever on this issue. The fact that chronic repeat offenders are not likely to respond to tickets misses several points: (1) the camera gives law enforcement officials more evidence to prosecute multiple offenders; (2) the camera could bust dangerous drivers who have not yet caused much damage – before they hurt people.

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