Wisconsin Act 115, defines an “emergency or roadside response area” as a portion of a road within 500 feet of an authorized emergency vehicle, which must give a visible signal, or a tow truck that has flashing red lights.
Gov. Evers noted the bill is critical in keeping workers safe.
“Distracted or negligent driving is dangerous and can even be deadly,” said Gov. Evers. “This bill is a critical step in ensuring the safety of workers on our roads, whether they’re emergency and first responders, construction and utility workers, or tow truck drivers.”
Governor Evers added, “I’m glad to sign this bill that will help make sure folks can do their jobs and respond to emergencies while keeping workers and travelers safe on our roads.”
The law also creates a new crime and penalty for traffic violations that result in bodily harm, if the violation happens in a construction, utility work or emergency response area. The existing measure of doubling fines for certain violations in road construction or utility work areas to an emergency response area also applies.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation must also conduct a campaign for the act to make the public aware of the new rules adds Gov. Evers.
"Our Hometown Hero"
Brian Swan, a 35 year volunteer firefighter earned the prestigious Home Town Hero Award by the State of Wisconsin Assembly, he was nominated by Rep. Katrina Shankland for his efforts to pass Wisconsin Act 115 into law.
The law makes it illegal for drivers to use handheld devices within 500 feet of a crash (the area considered an emergency or roadside response zone)
The intent of the law is to prevent secondary crashes and ensure the safety of emergency responders and other individuals at the scene. The law also creates new penalties if a driver hurts someone while committing a traffic violation in a construction zone, utility work area, or emergency response area.
Swan stated, "I’m really proud to have helped bring this important new law forward, and I hope that it will help protect the lives of all of our state’s firefighters, paramedics, EMT’s, State Patrol, law enforcement, highway workers, tow truck operators, and other first responders and roadside workers.”
Together Rep. Shankland, Chief Victor Voss and Brian Swan drafted and introduced legislation to protect first responders and roadside workers through education, enforcement, and prevention. Over the last three plus years, we built a strong bipartisan statewide coalition to call for and create change, including other fire chiefs and fire districts who have been impacted. As fire departments and other first responders from around the state came to the Capitol to support our legislation over the years, it was especially rewarding to pass Assembly Bill 297 into law recently. Governor Evers recognized these efforts at the Amherst Fire District when he signed the bill into law in December of 2021.
Chief Victor Voss and Assistant Chief Brian Swan are exemplary public servants and have made a lasting difference in our community through their combined seventy-plus years of fire service. Whether at home ensuring our safety or in the State Capitol advocating for needed changes, they truly are our Hometown Heroes. Please join me in congratulating Amherst Fire Chief Voss and Assistant Chief Swan for this well-deserved recognition and thanking them for their service!