Slow Down! New Driving Law Protects Trash Collection Workers

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Trash collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the country.

And there’s a new law in Virginia you may not be familiar with that aims to protect trash collection staff. The “Slow Down to Get Around” law, which carries a penalty of up to $250, says drivers must reduce their speed to at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit and pass at least two feet to the left of any stationary vehicle that is collecting trash or recycling.

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“This law will save lives, prevent worker injuries, and makes the roads in our community safer,” says John Kellas, director of our solid waste management program.

Speed, distracted driving and other ill-advised habits can make our roads dangerous. Our own solid waste staff knows first hand about the dangers of collecting trash. Here’s a story from one of our workers in his own words:

“I was on my collection route doing my job for Newington. I was wearing all of my safety gear and I had my headlights on and my yellow safety lights flashing so that everyone would know that I was a slow moving truck. I had just gotten out of my truck to go back and help my crew out picking up bulk trash items when, without warning, I was struck by a passenger car.

When my crew saw that I was on the ground, they did everything to stop me from being hit again by another vehicle. In my mind, my crew saved my life that day when they blocked the road and gave me a chance to drag myself to safety.

The vehicle that hit me kept going and then came back to the accident site. I suffered a badly broken right leg, as well as other injuries. I was in the hospital for 25 days. I have been going through physical therapy since day one, and today I am still going through physical therapy.

I am 100 percent in support of the new Virginia law “Slow Down to Get Around.” I also support the same law for vehicles driving towards the front of the truck. When people see flashing yellow lights, they need to slow down and pass with caution. If the driver of the vehicle that hit me had slowed down and paid attention to what was going on around him, he would have seen the flashing yellow lights and maybe, just maybe, he would have seen me and never hit me.

The public needs to start paying more attention to what is going on around them and not be distracted by other things. When they see a trash truck or any other vehicle with flashing lights, they need to slow down, pay attention, and always remember safety first.”

In July 2015, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed HB 1649 into law, joining eight other states that have enacted “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation: Wisconsin, North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan and Alabama.

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