New bill to protect first responders, highway workers in Wisconsin

By Sierra Trojan, WLUK FOX 11 News

Waupaca, Wis. (WLUK) -- This year, seven first responders have died in roadside crashes across the country, according to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.

"What's really scary is standing two to three feet out at a highway and having a car go by you at 60 to 80 mph," Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Brian Swan said.

Swan knows the feeling all too well, along with the neighboring fire department in Waupaca.

"July of 18, there was a Waupaca fire truck that was rear ended out on Highway 10. Luckily there wasn't any significant injuries," Swan said.

That's when he started looking into laws to protect workers on the roads.

"I found there wasn't anything besides the Move Over and Slow Down," Swan said.

Swan went to his representatives, Katrina Shankland and Patrick Testin. There are now bills in the state assembly and senate to protect road workers.

People who commit traffic violations by first responders, tow truck drivers and maintenance workers can face up to 9 months in prison.

"The other enhancer that's going in this, is up to a $10,000 fine if you cause bodily injury in an emergency zone," Swan said.

The bills say wireless telephone use near workers isn't allowed. First responders could also temporarily lower speed limits while working.

The assembly bill will have a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 10 a.m.

"The hearing starts at 10 a.m. down at the state capitol. We'd like to fill the whole thing with uniform people to show the support for this," Swan said.

The senate bill has not yet been assigned a public hearing.