Driving is a Behavior Rooted in Being Responsible for Each Other
Updated: Sep 23
By Jodie Donabar and Steve O’Connell
Reckless driving in Milwaukee has reached epidemic levels. Over the last five years, city and county residents have grown increasingly more distressed. A group of concerned citizens and grassroots organizations have come together to form the Coalition for Safe Driving MKE (The
Coalition) to address this issue.
The mission of The Coalition is to sustain a campaign of awareness about safe driving, educating the community, collaborating with partners and stakeholders, and advancing a broad-impact strategic plan to reduce reckless driving. The Coalition’s mission is to promote safe driving on our city streets and roads to reduce accidents, crashes, fatalities and injuries in the County.
What does it mean to be a responsible driver? So much of our driving is based on our attitude when we get behind the wheel of a car. Are we thinking about others? Are we thinking about getting to where we are going safely? Are we remembering that we share the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, motorcyclists and others? Are we even consciously preparing
ourselves for navigating the streets in a disciplined way?
Whether we realize it or not, we are in a social contract when we drive on our roads and streets. The contract is one in the unspoken. The contract establishes ground rules on how we operate on our streets. It incorporates rules of the road, driver’s etiquette and a respect for all of those that use our streets. In essence, it’s I’ll look out for you, you look out for me.
One of the important rules of the road is to have a driver’s license. Obtaining a license is a privilege not a right. Having one is not guaranteed by the constitution. It is one that is earned based on a course of study and demonstration of skills. Stepping over this preliminary requirement to get behind the wheel of a car puts many people in danger.
An automobile is a 3000-pound vehicle. If used improperly, it can cause a lot of damage and create a lot of harm. Imagine if you were asked to fly a plane and you had no experience or training, it would be a disaster. Or a boat? It looks easy enough to do, but there are many things that could go wrong. An automobile really is no different. Just because we have lots of people with cars and the roadways, doesn’t mean you don’t have to engage in the necessary
preparation to drive one.
A primary goal of Driver’s Education is to produce safe drivers. Many teens face challenges in accessing the course and obtaining their driver license. MPS Drive is a driver education program for students meeting eligibility criteria who are currently enrolled in an MPS high school. The program serves students ready to begin driving as well as those with suspended driving privileges who need assistance with regaining driving eligibility. Students must be 15.5 years old by the first day of class and not older than 17.5 by the last day of class. Although the classroom and behind-the-wheel training are free, there is a $35 fee to cover the cost of the temporary permit which is due at the time of registration. MPS Drive works to eliminate barriers that may prevent a student from obtaining their driver’s license. Since 2016, MPS Drive has provided just over 6,100 teens with the opportunity to participate in driver education. Of those teens, 3,100 have received their probationary license. The number of licensed drivers changes daily as more students become eligible to take the road test after successfully holding their temporary permit for six months.
The challenges for an individual to be in a vehicle for the first time can be overwhelming. There is a lot of responsibility. All drivers must contemplate: “what is my role to keep the streets and other people safe?” Choosing not to do so safe breaks the social contract.
We recognize that driver’s education wasn’t available for a while and that many people fell through the cracks with the training. We believe providing access to the training for older adults outside of the MPS age range would be a valuable community service. We also believe that providing pathways for people to get a license or to get a suspended one reinstated through an amnesty program would provide people with opportunities to be in compliance with the rules of the road and get the instruction they need to navigate the streets safely. These ideas create a win/win.
Ultimately, all of us that use the streets and highways have a duty to do so responsibly. We know everyone doesn’t practice this obligation. Wouldn’t you like to know why? We would. As we advocate for safe driving on Milwaukee streets, we seek your support and suggestions on how we can more effectively promote safety for all. Please join us in exploring how to encourage safe driving on our streets. Check out Coalition for Safe Driving MKE on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and join our campaign to reduce reckless driving.