Governor Evers signs bill in to law aimed at protecting first responders and highway workers

By Brittany Slaughter

AMHERST, Wis. (WAOW)-- Governor Evers signed a new bill in to law in Amherst on Monday aiming at protecting first responders and highway workers on the roadways. 

"Stepping out on that roadway knowing that traffic is going past us at 70 to 80 miles per hour and the difference is a thin yellow line about this wide, so that fear is real and from a fire chief standpoint I cringe when I hear us have to go out on the highway," said Victor Voss, Amherst Fire Chief.

It's a fear that has turned into reality for many first responders. The Amherst Fire Department Assistant Chief spearheaded the efforts for the new law after one fire fighter was injured and another killed in separate incidents on the side of Wisconsin roads. 

"You don't know how many times I've been video taped when I'm out on an emergency scene, I look up and there's a driver who has their cell phone and they're video taping me while they're driving the car. It's unbelievable," said Brian Swan, Amherst Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief.

In August, a Clark County highway worker was hit and killed and another hurt while clearing a tree from the road. The new roadside safety bill signed into law increases penalties for drivers who injure or kill a roadside worker, with up to nine months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

"Many of these jobs are hazardous enough on their own without having to fear for your life because of a distracted or dangerous driver," said Governor Tony Evers.

The bill was a bipartisan effort between Representatives Katrina Shankland and Patrick Testin.

"It is important for the people of Wisconsin to know we can come together and solve really important problems," Governor Evers said.

Those who have lost a loved one on the roadways said the new law means a lot to them.

"It's like a circle complete now for Larry. He can rest, he's at peace now," said Cindy Marquardt, the sister of a firefighter that was killed on the side of the road.