MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – The number of fatal crashes involving African Americans has jumped in the past half-decade in Milwaukee.
A new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows the number of fatalities went from 31 in 2013 to 63 in 2018.
Two thirds of those fatalities happened in Milwaukee County.
“The motor vehicle crash fatality rate for black Wisconsinites has really risen very sharply,” said Mark Sommerhauser from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.
The study points to a drop in public transportation and lack of driver’s education courses as possible reasons. But Sommerhauser says speed is a factor in many of them.
“There was an increase that we saw in speeding-related fatalities, and that was something that appeared to be unique in the Milwaukee area,” he said.
“There’s just far too much speeding on our city streets, more than it should be,” said Alderman Michael Murphy from Milwaukee’s 10th District.
Ald. Murphy is part of the reckless driving task force. He pointed to the controversial change in the Milwaukee police pursuit policy as a possible reason for the change.
He’s not sure why African Americans have seen such a big jump, but says the focus now should be how to stop it.
“There could be multiple sources of why it occurred, but no matter why it occurred, the answer is how do we change it?” he said.
The task force has recommended offering free driver’s education and cracking down on reckless drivers. They’re also re-engineering streets to force people to slow down.
“We put additional money in this year’s budget, called complete streets — about $1.2 million to start engineering these changes,” said Ald. Murphy.
But no matter what they do, Alderman Murphy says ultimately it comes down to the driver’s choices.
“This doesn’t have to be this way,” he said. “This is all a behavior issue, and we can’t change people’s behavior but everybody has to step up a little bit to make these changes,” said Murphy.
“We hope our report lends some urgency to the efforts to find out what is causing this and what can be done to reverse it,” said Sommerhauser.