Adopt-A-Highway bill would protect roadside volunteers

CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- A new bill would make it safer for volunteers doing cleanup on the side of a road all across Wisconsin.

Assembly Bill 151, also called the "Adopt-A-Highway" bill will add protections for volunteer cleanup workers to the same extent that road construction workers have in a work zone.

Under current law, the amount of any applicable minimum and maximum fine or forfeiture is doubled for specified traffic violations committed where persons working in a highway maintenance or construction area are at risk from traffic.

Under Assembly Bill 151, "highway maintenance or construction area" is defined to include the roadway adjacent to which roadside cleanup or maintenance work is being performed.

Under the bill, drivers caught violating traffic laws in cleanup areas would be given the same fines as in a construction or work zone, where fines double.

This comes after the tragic hit-and-run in November in Lake Hallie that left 3 girl scouts and a mother dead as they were picking up trash on the side of the road.

“When you see workers along the road, no matter whether they're volunteer workers or paid workers, they are someone's family members," said Rep. Jodi Emerson. "Let's make sure to treat them that way.”

Chippewa County Highway Commissioner, Brian Kelley, whose daughter was killed in the Girl Scouts crash, is working with Emerson and other bipartisan supporters on the bill.

“We want to do everything we can in our power to promote people to put their cell phones down when they’re driving, slow down, move over and follow the laws,” said Kelley.

Emerson says cleanup efforts will start this week and is reminding drivers to drive carefully and always be mindful of workers or volunteers on the side of the road.

“Anytime you put people on the side of a road, whether its volunteers or our county workers, it's a dangerous situation and I hope this bill brings attention to it,” said Glen Sikorski, Chippewa County Highway Committee Chair.

Emerson says this bill would be for all Adopt-A-Highway sections in the state, which ends up being about 11,000 miles of highway.

She says this bill has bi-partisan support and hopes this will be passed in the next few weeks.