Proposed law to double penalties for drivers caught speeding past garbage trucks

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- They're the ones you count on to take away your trash.

But more and more, trash collectors say drivers aren't paying attention to them, making their job a dangerous one.

What's being done about it?

WEAU 13 News has learned there's a proposal right now in the State Assembly to make a law doubling the penalty for drivers who unsafely pass garbage trucks and workers when they're on the job.

Nate Williams has been a trash collector for 12 years.

And in that time taking care of dirty deeds, he's had a lot of close calls with drivers zipping past him.

“Sometimes they're in a rush and they're not paying attention to the truck with the flashing lights. We try to look out for them but also for ourselves,” said Nate Williams, a trash collector with Boxx Sanitation Company in Eau Claire.

He remembers when one of his co-workers was hit by a truck.

“It wasn't pretty. He had a broken arm,” Williams said.

The proposal in the Assembly comes from Rep. John Jagler of Watertown.

The republican said he wanted to take action after a sanitation worker in his district was injured by a driver in January.

“It's more along the lines of a construction zone. Everybody knows when they go into a construction zone now that they need to slow down or fines double. The waste haulers association wants to expand this to other states. They'll be providing signage for the back of all garbage trucks in Wisconsin for sanitation vehicles that want them, so the state won't have to pay for them,” Rep. Jagler said.

Heidi Boxx, the owner of Boxx Sanitation said the proposed law will help protect her workers.

“They’re on the streets every single day, all day long. They do wear high viz uniforms but garbage trucks are big, they're large, they’re hard to see around and accidents can happen,” Boxx said.

She said thankfully, Boxx has never had a trash collector hit by a vehicle.

But the National Solid Waste Management Association says up to eight sanitation workers are killed by a car every year.

“Take the precaution because we're trying to provide a service and keep Eau Claire clean,” Williams said.

Rep. Jagler said next week, the bill will officially be proposed in the Assembly and then will go into a committee.

He said there's been lots of bi-partisan support for this bill.

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