New bill would bring harsher penalties to those who endanger first responders on the road

By Zack White, WJFW

ONEIDA COUNTY - Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) introduced a bill on Monday to keep emergency or roadside personnel safe from harm.

Shankland said the bill should reduce stress for first responders.

"When our first responders are serving on the front lines we should not be endangering them further through reckless and distracted driving," said Shankland

The bill would create an emergency response area, similar to a work zone. This area would allow first responders to control the flow and speed of traffic so they can work safely around an accident.

Fines would double for speeding, reckless driving and other traffic citations.

The bill would also prohibit cellphone use while driving near a response area.

Under the bill, if a driver causes bodily harm to roadside workers, they may be fined up to $10,000 or serve nine months in jail.

Shankland said the bill allows for the enforcement of stricter.

"In many cases, prosecutors are not able to file charges that match the crime especially when someone is injured or killed," said Shankland

Minocqua Police Chief David Jaeger said in addition to the "Move Over Law," The new bill would make people consider the safety of workers.

"I think it's important when people are driving through these areas that they stay focused and pay attention to the people who are working to enhance their safety so they can get home safely to their families," said Jaeger.

The bill was proposed after firefighters made a push for lawmakers to hold drivers more accountable after the death of Endeavor Moundville Firefighter Larry Millard.

Rhinelander Firefighter Andrea Boos offered some advice to those who might not follow the protocol.

"We just want to remind people that if they do see us with our lights and siren, pull over to the right please," said Boos. "A lot of people just kind of stop or pull to the left or continue to take their left turn, stop take a second take a deep breath, pull over to the right and we'll navigate around you safely."