Project Milwaukee
3:24 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Report: Nearly 100K Driver's Licenses Suspended Each Year in Milwaukee

Milwaukee NNS reporter Rick Brown talks about his article with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.

Many of Milwaukee's poorest residents are dealing with a double-whammy when it comes to access to employment: poverty and suspended driving privileges.

A report in the online Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service found that 97,000 Failure to Pay Forfeiture (FPF) suspensions were issued in Milwaukee County in 2011.  The article cited data uncovered by a 2012 report by UWM's Employment and Training Institute.

FPF suspensions are issued when people receiving citations - for violations such as driving with a broken headlight or without proof of insurance, or even mutiple unpaid parking tickets.

Rick Brown, the Milwaukee NNS reporter who covered the story, says those suspensions disproportionately affect people living in economically challenged parts of Milwaukee.

"The north side and the south side are the most hit areas of Milwaukee," he says.  "And in fact, eighty-two percent of the people who received suspensions during that time were minorities.  Sixty-five percent were African-American."

Something as simple as a broken headlight can lead to a driver's license suspension.
Credit Automobile Association image

Brown says his research shows that typically, people with FPF suspensions continue to drive in order to get to work, even though they risk additional fines and even jail time.

He says the suspensions themselves also can affect a person's future job prospects.  "It's something that affects your ability to be desirable to employers," he says.  "Many times it's used as kind of an applicant filter, or a measure of responsibility."

Brown spoke with people from several organizations trying to help people with suspended driver's licenses navigate the process towards having their driving privileges restored.  He says state legislation has also been proposed to reduce the length of suspensions from two years to six months.  Already, a state law has come off the books that mandated license revocation for people with four Operating While Suspended convictions.