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Unlicensed drivers

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Unlicensed drivers

By Jermont Terry. CREATED Feb 24, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb 24, 2014

OAK CREEK - There’s a good chance the person driving next you when you’re stuck in traffic may not have a drivers license. If the person does not have a license they don’t have insurance. But it may also lead to something worse.

Just this month the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office said a driver going too fast slammed into one of their own, along the highway-145 on ramp to U.S-45.

In May 2013, a man ran a light crashing into Ashley Williams. Her unborn child died in the accident.  In April 2012, six year-old Christopher Wade Jr. was killed while he crossed the street in Milwaukee.  All of the crashes were caused by unlicensed drivers.

“I miss him every day,” explained Robert Dams.

Dams lost his son Nicholas Dams in a tragic crash in 2005. A man driving without a license crashed into Dams’ motorcycle. He was only 20 year-old at the time.

“People ask me it's been so many years, aren't you over it yet. You never get over losing a child,” said Dams.

Robert Dams is the former Greendale Police chief. After his son’s death he fought to change Wisconsin law. He pushed to make it a felony for anyone who drives on a revoked or suspended license. The law made it felony only for those who cause injury.

“They don't have a right, they have privilege to drive in this state,” said Dams.

Joel Bieszk lost his right to drive. The I-Team cameras caught him Bieszk jumping into the driver seat of a white Ford. The I-Team watched him for weeks. We captured him speeding. Speeding isn’t new for him. It was back in 2011 dash came video recorded Bieszk going more than 120 miles an hour on the freeway. It was also his fifth drunk driving arrest.

Bieszk ran from the I-Team cameras when asked why he was driving despite his suspension. While he refused to talk to us he had plenty to say in the back of a State Patrol cruiser before pleading guilty and getting his license suspended.

Bieszk:  “I'm just asking for a break. I’ve never had one in my whole life. All I hear about is people getting breaks. I've never gotten one.

Trooper: "I don't know an officer around that would give you a break for a fifth offense OWI."

After serving just over a year of three year sentence Bieszk was placed on probation. A judge ordered him to not drive.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation 757,494 drivers received traffic conviction in 2013. It turned out 74,166 of those drivers were cited for driving on a suspended license and 13,897 were ticked for hitting the road on a revoked license.

“We can't let this epidemic go on,” said Dams.

Across the nation 48 states make it a felony for people who repeatedly drive on revoked or suspended licenses, whether they cause injury or not. Wisconsin and Hawaii are the two states where it’s not a felony.

“Every other state is doing it. We are behind,” explained Dams.

Dams would like to see some jail time for repeat offenders—even if no one is injured.  State Representative Mandela Barnes sympathizes with victims’ families. However, he argued you can’t throw everyone in jail adding he understood why some people get behind the wheel.

Barnes: “When this is their only option, whether it's I have to drive without a license or I'll be fired and I'll lose my house or I'll lose everything I have.”

Jermont: “Then the fine and penalty is worth it in your opinion?

Barnes: “For that person."

The state has programs to help unlicensed drivers pay their fines. In some cases if you complete the process you can clear you driving record. But some argue people who drive without a valid license don’t care to pay fines and the threat of jail time would be enough to not get behind the wheel. 

Jermont Terry

Jermont Terry

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Jermont Terry joined the TODAY'S TMJ4 team in January 2011. He currently leads the TMJ4 I-Team as the investigative reporter.