By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
As the wind rustled the leaves overhead, and cars zoomed past, a group of rallyists donning neon green vests, thrust their signs into the air. They had gathered on the corners of Capitol and 31st Street on the afternoon of Monday, October 9, 2017, for Northwest Side Community and Development Corporation’s (NWSCDC) “Rally for Safe Streets.”
The rally was organized in four days and scheduled a week after a fatal car accident, which killed a mother and her daughter the night of October 2, 2017. With signs that urged drivers to “Slow Down!” and passengers to abide by “Seat Belts, Buckle Up!”—rallyists are hoping for safer streets.
Howard Snyder, executive director of NWSCDC, aimed a speedometer at passing cars. He noticed that some cars did, in fact, slow down upon noticing the handheld device.
According to Snyder, starting in July 2016 and leading up to the aforementioned accident earlier this month, there have been a total of seven deaths due to reckless driving. He once saw a car driving 78 mph when the typical speed limit on Capitol begins at 25 mph.
“Enough is enough,” Snyder said. “I think you got to send a message.”
Although they targeted a single area, Snyder knows of other areas in bad shape too. Part of the problem, according to him, is that bad drivers don’t always get ticketed for their behavior, and without proper enforcement they’ll continue to tear up the streets.
While some offenders receive tickets, if a driver pulls a hit and run, there’s a possibility that they’ll get away with it. Some rallyists theorized that some drivers are repeat offenders, who don’t fear the consequences because they already lack a license or car insurance.
According to Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, the push for safer streets began ten years ago, and it was around this time that fewer tickets were being issued. Hamilton believes that a ticket can deter someone’s behavior.
“Residents have become extremely frustrated,” said Hamilton. Their frustration has made the matter a high priority, with results like this rally taking place.
He hopes that drivers take some self-accountability and start asserting control over their driving, and that they prioritize making the streets a safer place for drivers and pedestrians.
Milwaukee resident Anthony Carter, suspected that without the visual of rallyists on the corner, they’ll probably revert back to their usual speeds.
He attributes the spike in accidents to lower gas prices. According to Carter, when gas was expensive, people took their time to conserve gas, but now they ride freely without even bothering to look both ways. A possible solution is a speed or red light camera that can send automatic tickets.
Barbara Moore an employee at NWSDC, remarked that there are fewer tickets being issued and even fewer tickets being paid. She believes the ending result led to “no fear.” In other words, drivers don’t fear the police or possibility of punishment, hence the rise in accidents and recklessness.
Moore helped to spearhead the safe streets movement, and she hopes to continue receiving support from the community. NWSDC plans to create a Safety Task Force in the following months.
For Moore and many others, the increasing number of innocent lives lost has continued on long enough, and it’s time to slow down or face the consequences.