MADISON, Wis. (AP) - As he worked his garbage route in Stoughton, Mark Friend often feared for his safety, worried about cars that would zip past without slowing down - and in some cases, he said, even speed up.
"I was close to getting clipped by cars almost every day," Friend said. This January, his luck ran out when a car rammed into him as he deposited trash, pinning Friend against his truck and forcing the eventual amputation of his leg. He spent more than two months in a hospital, undergoing some 20 surgeries.
A Wisconsin state lawmaker has a proposal to make life safer for sanitation workers like Friend. State Rep. John Jagler, a Republican from Watertown, would add them to the list of people - such as highway workers - whose presence calls for doubling traffic fines or forfeitures for motorists who drive recklessly.
Friend, 36, of Ixonia, actually approached Jagler at a campaign appearance last summer to raise the issue of safety for workers like him. Jagler said he promised to introduce something. Then, in January, came Friend's accident.
"My heart sank when I heard about the crash," Jagler said. "My spine was shivering."
The National Solid Wastes Management Association said four to eight collection workers are killed by cars each year while on the job. The group started a national safety awareness campaign in 2004 after an Ohio waste collector was killed by a car and another was severely hurt in a separate crash.
Nearly all states have laws that require drivers to give way or slow down for parked police, fire or emergency vehicles with flashing lights. But only Michigan extends that to garbage trucks when they have such flashing lights.
Besides the Wisconsin proposal, Alabama is considering legislation that would require drivers to move over for garbage trucks when they are stopped, as they do for police and emergency vehicles.
Jagler said other lawmakers have been supportive of his proposal and he hopes to introduce it in early April.
Phone messages left for Democratic and Republican leaders in the Legislature on Friday were not immediately returned.
Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor will comment on the proposal once it passes the Legislature.
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