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Iowa drivers prepare to “Slow Down to Get Around” garbage trucks

DAVENPORT -- As Davenport driver Leo Yerington collects garbage on Thursday, May 11, he thinks about close-calls and near-misses over more than 20 years on the job.

"Most of the time, you'll see them coming," he recalled. "They just fly on by. They don't pay any attention."

Caution is crucial for safety on this route. He never knows what's ahead or around the corner.

"They'll come around and pull right in front of me into a driveway," he said.

Avoiding these kinds of near mishaps is why Iowa is joining several neighboring states in enacting a "Slow Down to Get Around" law on July 1. Under the law, drivers must slow down, change lanes if possible and move with caution around waste and recycling trucks. It will mirror rules that drivers already follow for police and first responders in several other states.

"You're out on that route, you're kind of in a zone," said Davenport Route Supervisor Jeff Good. "They're picking up carts.  They're worried about mailboxes, other cars, overhead lines."

Otherwise, Iowa drivers could be cited after an incident. That's already true in Illinois, Wisconsin and 11 other states.

Stats show that driving a garbage truck is actually one of the most dangerous jobs in America. That makes the call for safety even more important.

"The solid waste collection industry is in the top five for the number of work related injuries or fatalities," said Kurt Liske, Waste Commission of Scott County. "It's actually above police or emergency responders."

Often, just a second makes the difference between safety or an accident.

While Davenport has not endured a fatality, the current situation becomes more threatening by the day.

"You look out, and there's nothing there," Good said. "You go to pull out and boom, they're right on top of you."

In the rush to get places, drivers just don't watch out for garbage trucks.

"Now, people just don't care at all," Yerington said.

Leo Yerington hopes that perception will change with the new law. After decades on the job, he offers timely advice for other drivers.

"Basically, slow down," he concluded. "They get in too big of a hurry."

It just might save a life.