My wife works second shift in Oconomowoc and we have a home in Bay View. Too many times during her nighttime commute home she sees the aftermath of a wrong-way driver. It is terrifying. After all, what can you do to protect yourself from a wrong-way driver on the freeway? Pay attention? Well obviously, but really it comes down to luck.
Earlier this week I sent a request to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office asking them for data on wrong-way driver incidents on Milwaukee County freeways. I wanted to know how often it happens, how often it involves alcohol, and whether there are any specific ramps where wrong-way drivers are more likely to get on the freeway in the wrong direction. My thinking was I would do a piece on the need for wrong-way spikes or something similar to help stop these incidents. Thankfully, the County Sheriff’s office is way ahead of me.
Today Milwaukee County announced plans to install motion detectors on nine ramps where wrong-way driver incidents have originated. These motion detectors will immediately alert authorities when a driver enters the freeway in the wrong direction. Hopefully this will give officers time to clear traffic, and ultimately stop the driver. It is not going to stop every incident, but it is certainly a much-needed step that will make a difference.
It is also a great example of what I meant when I previously touched on the many positive functions of government. Simply, there are limits to the effectiveness of personal responsibility. Though it is a depressing thought that there exists multiple people in our city that will attempt to drive a car after getting inebriated to the point of being unable to tell which is the right side of the freeway, it is reality. Sure, stronger drunk driving laws may deter some from this behavior, but I have to think someone unable to process that they are putting lives (including their own) in danger is unlikely to make a good decision out of the fear of a DUI.
Hence, it is a perfect example of where government is best positioned, and really the only entity at all positioned, to take the necessary actions to address a social problem. Kudos to Milwaukee County for taking this important step to better protect those, who like my wife, are just trying to get home safely. Now we can only hope that no more lives are taken by these senseless incidents.