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Legislator wants to deter suspended drivers, like one who caused I-94 pileup last week
State Legislature

Legislator wants to deter suspended drivers, like one who caused I-94 pileup last week

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MADISON — A pileup on Interstate 94 in Racine County last Wednesday, reportedly caused by a suspended and uninsured driver, is just one example of why state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo wants the Legislature to crack down on driving without a valid license.

Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, believes that the punishments in Wisconsin for driving without a license, with a suspended license or without car insurance are not nearly harsh enough to deter drivers from doing so.

All three infractions are currently civil offenses, resulting in a citation, unless the incident causes serious injury.

Last week’s wreck occurred at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday on Interstate 94, when a 31-year-old Kenosha man heading north in a pickup just south of Highway 20 changed lanes, striking a semitrailer in the process.

The semi swerved, crashing through the median wall and striking a second semitrailer that was headed south on I-94.

The Kenosha man was cited for failure to maintain control of vehicle, operating while suspended, non-registration of auto and not having auto insurance.

He suffered lacerations that required stitches. The semi drivers were treated and released for minor injuries.

After the crash, the roadway was closed in both directions for several hours.

“What we have now is countless drivers on Wisconsin roads who have either never been issued a license or had their license taken away for good cause,” Sanfelippo stated in a news release.

“If someone has never shown that they know how to drive or, worse, have demonstrated that they should not be allowed to drive, we need to be making sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep these individuals off of the road because they are a danger to everyone around them. Right now, we are simply doing nothing.”

Try, try again

Sanfelippo, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2012, previously authored legislation with the same goals during the previous session, and in 2015 and stated that he planned to reintroduce it to “put some teeth” behind the state’s laws regarding unlicensed and uninsured drivers.

“It’s getting worse,” Sanfelippo said. “Milwaukee has a horrendous problem.”

“Earlier this year, a Milwaukee Department of Public Works employee, Bryan Rodriguez, died after a car struck him while he was filling potholes. The driver, who fled the scene, despite also never having possessed a valid driver license, had previously been cited a staggering 31 times for driving without a license,” Sanfelippo stated in a news release.

Sanfelippo added that he plans to introduce the proposed legislation sometime this week.

The legislation would include a requirement for police to impound the vehicles of repeat offenders until the vehicle is registered and the person claiming it is licensed and insured.

“We’re finally going to make sure these drivers either learn to drive safely or stay off the roads,” Sanfilippo stated.

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Reporter

Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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