MILWAUKEE — A proposed state bill would let Milwaukee become the first Wisconsin municipality to employ automated traffic enforcement, a controversial measure that is currently illegal in Wisconsin and has found middling results in other American cities that employ it.

The bipartisan bill, first read in the Assembly on Aug. 12 and in the state Senate on Sept. 5, would allot the city a trial period of five years to place cameras at signaled intersections and other roadways to automatically enforce speed-limit and red-light violations by sending vehicle owners citations in the mail.

The bill, dubbed “Safe Roads Save Lives Legislation,” is currently in the Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and the Assembly’s Committee on Local Government.

Sponsoring the measure are state Sens. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee; and 19 state representatives, including David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, and Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison.

“Excessive speeding, red light running and disregarded traffic rules has created unsafe roads throughout our city,” the co-sponsors wrote in a joint statement. “As a community, we deserve to feel safe on our roads.”

Many cities across the country, such as Chicago, have implemented automated enforcement but discontinued use after troubles including legal challenges.

Automated enforcement has been shown to decrease speed by 1% to 15% and crashes by 8% to 49%, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute says “there is strong evidence” that automated enforcement increases traffic safety.

However, researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the University of Arizona found in 2017 that “the cameras changed the composition of accidents, but (there was) no evidence of a reduction in total accidents or injuries.”

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth and traffic-safety expert David Noyce told The Journal Times last month that they supported such measures to curb Interstate 94 crashes during the current construction.

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