Wisconsin lawmaker pursues vehicle impound rule for 'dangerous drivers'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/11/2015

If a Wisconsin state lawmaker gets his way, some people who have lost their driving privileges would risk the loss of their vehicle if they are caught behind the wheel.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said his proposal is intended to improve road safety by keeping “dangerous and irresponsible” drivers off the state’s roadways. Specifically, his bill would require the impoundment of most vehicles involved in offenses of operating without a license, operating after revocation or operating while suspended.

Residents attempting to register a vehicle with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would also be required to show a valid operator’s license.

With few exceptions, state law already prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle on Wisconsin roadways without a valid driver’s license.

Despite the state’s efforts, Sanfelippo says the rule has not stopped some citizens from continuing to drive illegally. He made a point to single out those repeatedly convicted of drunken driving or operating without liability insurance.

“We have to stop letting reckless drivers continue to negatively impact the lives of anyone who gets inside a vehicle,” Sanfelippo said in prepared remarks.

The bill would allow vehicles to be reclaimed following the impoundment period as long as the owner pays the associated fee and any fine or forfeiture for the offense. The vehicle’s owner would also be required to provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license.

Critics say the proposal is an attack on low-income residents who still need to drive to work despite their inability to pay fines for driving offenses.

Sanfelippo said nearly 12 percent of Wisconsin drivers do not have liability insurance coverage, which has been required by state law since 2009. It is also pointed out that one year ago state law enforcement issued more than 110,000 tickets for operating without a license, operating after revocation, or operating while suspended.

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