2003 - 2004 LEGISLATURE
January 30, 2003 - Introduced by Representatives Hahn, Ainsworth, Gronemus,
M. Lehman, Kreibich, Freese, Lassa, Owens, Musser, Albers, Bies, Seratti,
Hines, Ott, LeMahieu, Townsend and McCormick, cosponsored by Senators
Welch, Cowles, Roessler, Lazich, Breske and
Leibham. Referred to
Committee on Highway Safety.
1An Act to renumber
346.495 (1); to amend
346.01 (2); and to create
346.49 (2r) and 346.495 (1) (b) of the statutes; relating to: vehicle owner
3liability for violations of certain traffic laws relating to railroad crossings and
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, the operator of a vehicle is prohibited from doing any of the
1. Driving the vehicle on or across a railroad crossing while being signaled to
stop by a traffic officer, railroad employee, or warning device. After stopping for a
warning device, however, the operator may proceed if no train is approaching.
2. Driving the vehicle through, around, or under any railroad crossing gate or
barrier if it is closed or is being opened or closed.
An operator who fails to comply with either of these prohibitions may be
required to forfeit not more than $1,000, except that a bicyclist may be required to
forfeit not more than $40.
Current law also requires the operator of certain vehicles, including school
buses, motor buses, and vehicles that are transporting certain hazardous
substances, with limited traffic-related exceptions, to stop within 50 feet from the
nearest track and take certain precautions before proceeding to ensure that a train
is not approaching. An operator who fails to comply with this requirement is
required to forfeit not less than $60 nor more than $600.
Current law imposes various surcharges or assessments to be levied against
persons who violate certain laws; these surcharges and assessments must be paid in
addition to any fine or forfeiture imposed and in addition to any other surcharge or
assessment imposed. A railroad crossing improvement assessment is imposed on
any person found to have violated any of these traffic laws relating to railroad
crossings. The amount of the assessment is equal to 50% of the amount of the
forfeiture that is imposed upon conviction. The money collected from the assessment
must be used to fund railroad crossing protection improvements, such as automatic
signals or other warning devices, and their maintenance.
This bill imposes liability upon the owner of a vehicle involved in a violation of
any of these traffic laws relating to railroad crossings. A railroad employee who
observes a railroad crossing violation may submit a written report concerning the
violation to a traffic officer within 24 hours of observing the violation. The traffic
officer may, within 48 hours of receiving the report, prepare a traffic citation for the
violation and serve it upon the owner of the vehicle.
The bill subjects the owner of a vehicle involved in a violation of any of these
traffic laws relating to railroad crossings to the same penalties as those that apply
to the operator of the vehicle involved in the violation, including a railroad crossing
improvement assessment. However, the bill provides that the vehicle owner's
operating privilege may not be suspended or revoked, and no demerit points may be
recorded against the owner's driving record, for the imposition of vehicle owner
liability created by this bill.
The vehicle owner has a defense to liability for the violation if the vehicle had
been stolen at the time of the violation or if the owner provides the traffic officer with
the name and address of the person who was operating the vehicle or who had the
vehicle under his or her control at the time of the violation and that person admits
operating the vehicle or having the vehicle under his or her control at the time of the
violation. Lessors and dealers of vehicles have similar types of defenses.
For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be
printed as an appendix to this bill.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
AB15, s. 1
346.01 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:
In this chapter, notwithstanding s. 340.01 (42), "owner" means, with 3
respect to a vehicle that is registered, or is required to be registered, by a lessee of 4
the vehicle under ch. 341, the lessee of the vehicle for purposes of vehicle owner 5
liability under ss. 346.175, 346.195, 346.205, 346.452,
346.457, 346.465, 346.485, 6
AB15, s. 2
346.452 of the statutes is created to read:
2346.452 Owner's liability for vehicle illegally crossing at a railroad
Subject to s. 346.01 (2), the owner of a vehicle involved in a violation 4
of s. 346.44 or 346.45 shall be liable for the violation as provided in this section.
A railroad employee who observes a violation of s. 346.44 or 346.45 may 6
prepare a written report indicating that a violation has occurred. If possible, the 7
report shall contain the following information:
(a) The violation alleged.
(b) The time and the approximate location at which the violation occurred.
(c) The license number and color of the vehicle involved in the violation.
(d) Identification of the vehicle as an automobile, station wagon, motor truck, 12
motor bus, motorcycle, or other type of vehicle.
Within 24 hours after observing the violation, the railroad employee may 14
deliver the report to a traffic officer of the county or municipality in which the 15
violation occurred. A report which does not contain all of the information in sub. (2) 16
shall nevertheless be delivered and shall be maintained by the county or 17
municipality for statistical purposes.
(a) Within 48 hours after receiving a report containing all of the information 19
in sub. (2), the traffic officer may prepare a uniform traffic citation under s. 345.11 20
and may personally serve it upon the owner of the vehicle.
(b) If with reasonable diligence the owner cannot be served under par. (a), 22
service may be made by leaving a copy of the citation at the owner's usual place of 23
abode within this state in the presence of a competent member of the family at least 24
14 years of age, who shall be informed of the contents thereof.
(c) If with reasonable diligence the owner cannot be served under par. (a) or (b) 2
or if the owner lives outside of the jurisdiction of the issuing authority, service may 3
be made by certified mail addressed to the owner's last-known address.
(a) Except as provided in par. (b), it shall be no defense to a violation of this 5
section that the owner was not operating the vehicle at the time of the violation.
(b) The following are defenses to a violation of this section:
1. That a report that the vehicle was stolen was given to a traffic officer before 8
the violation occurred or within a reasonable time after the violation occurred.
2. If the owner of the vehicle provides a traffic officer with the name and address 10
of the person operating the vehicle at the time of the violation and the person so 11
named admits operating the vehicle at the time of the violation, then the person 12
operating the vehicle and not the owner shall be charged under this section.
3. If the vehicle is owned by a lessor of vehicles and at the time of the violation 14
the vehicle was in the possession of a lessee, and the lessor provides a traffic officer 15
with the information required under s. 343.46 (3), then the lessee and not the lessor 16
shall be charged under this section.
4. If the vehicle is owned by a dealer as defined in s. 340.01 (11) (intro.) but 18
including the persons specified in s. 340.01 (11) (a) to (d), and at the time of the 19
violation the vehicle was being operated by any person on a trial run, and if the dealer 20
provides a traffic officer with the name, address, and operator's license number of the 21
person operating the vehicle, then the person operating the vehicle, and not the 22
dealer, shall be charged under this section.
AB15, s. 3
346.49 (2r) of the statutes is created to read:
(a) A vehicle owner or other person found liable under s. 346.452 25
with respect to a violation of s. 346.44 may be required to forfeit not more than
$1,000, except that, if the vehicle involved in the violation was a bicycle, the bicycle 2
owner or other person may be required to forfeit not more than $40.
(b) A vehicle owner or other person found liable under s. 346.452 with respect 4
to a violation of s. 346.45 shall forfeit not less than $60 nor more than $600.
(c) Imposition of liability under s. 346.452 shall not result in suspension or 6
revocation of a person's operating license under s. 343.30 or 343.31, nor shall it result 7
in demerit points being recorded on a person's driving record under s. 343.32 (2) (a).
AB15, s. 4
346.495 (1) of the statutes is renumbered 346.495 (1) (a).
AB15, s. 5
346.495 (1) (b) of the statutes is created to read:
(b) If a court imposes a forfeiture under s. 346.49 (2r) with respect 11
to a violation of s. 346.44 or 346.45, the court shall also impose a railroad crossing 12
improvement assessment equal to 50% of the amount of the forfeiture.