MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin State Patrol and first responders held a news conference on Friday, Nov. 15th, to highlight their work and the need for drivers to do their part to keep everyone, themselves included, safe on the road.
National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, held from Nov. 10 to 16, is a time dedicated to raising awareness of the important role responders have in providing aid to the injured, getting the public out of harm’s way, and clearing an incident from the roadway to return traffic to normal flow.
These workers include law enforcement, fire/EMS, towing and recovery personnel, mobile mechanics and public works. So far this year, 39 first responders have been killed in the course of their work on the nation’s roadways.
"Every driver needs to eliminate distractions, focus on the road ahead. Move over or slow down significantly when approaching responders working on the side of the road," said Lt. Nathan Clarke, Wisconsin State Patrol.
State Patrol says cell phones are now a bigger danger on the road than drunk drivers. Passengers can text and talk all they want, but drivers should always keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and never exceed the speed limit.
Images from just this week show the need to slow down and move over when you see emergency crews out on the road. On Wednesday afternoon, on I-94 in Dunn County, Wisconsin -- just outside Menomonie -- a squad car was struck as the deputy was helping a disabled vehicle.
"This year alone, 39 responders have been killed in the course of their work across the country on our roadways," said Clark.
The reminders come at the end of National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week. Wisconsin State Patrol and other first responders are banding together to remind drivers of the often-deadly consequences. Wisconsin State Patrol took FOX6 inside their traffic management center for a real-time look at dangers on the road.
"Every driver needs to eliminate distractions, focus on the road ahead," said Clark. "Move over or slow down significantly when approaching responders working on the side of the road."
In the Dairy State, seven responders have suffered serious injuries. Last year, five were hurt and two first responders were killed. Last week in Waukesha County, investigators say a driver on a cell phone in the Town of Eagle caused a fatal wreck. Many children have been hit recently by reckless drivers.
"I think the statistic is one in five crashes we respond to is related to distracted driving," said ZG. "We run into it on pretty much a daily basis."
Ozaukee County is teaming up with State Patrol and Mequon PD for increased patrols Friday. Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy admits more needs to be done to stop bad behaviors behind the wheel. In July, the city launched a pilot program to combat reckless driving, increasing patrols in several dangerous intersections.
"Everyone has really got to realize we play a big part of it individually, but also collectively," said Murphy.
Fifteen people in Ozaukee County were pulled over today. There's no word yet on how many were issued citations.