In the wake of an increase in roadside injuries and deaths among Illinois state troopers, Governor J.B. Pritzker has approved harsher penalties for those who break what’s known as Scott’s Law.
That law is Illinois’ version of the so-called “Move Over” requirement, whereby drivers have to change lanes or at least slow down if they see flashing emergency lights on the side of a road. It’s named after Chicago firefighter Scott Gillen, who was killed in 2000 after a drunk driver sped through an accident scene.
Nearly twenty years later, emergency workers are still being hit and killed. State Police Director Brendan Kelly says three troopers have been killed this year alone — two in apparent violations of Scott’s Law.
“The pain that their families had to bear in the name of public safety is hard to put into words. The men and women of the Illinois State Police are grateful for the words of support over the past few months,” he told reporters.
The new penalties Gov. Pritzker signed into law are in response to at least 22 drivers who have crashed into Illinois State Police troopers along the side of the road this year. Though moving over for emergency vehicles has been a state law since 2002, Governor Pritzker believes drivers have become complacent.
“So many people are violating this law, and aren’t getting caught for it," he told a crowd gathered for the bill signing. "The result is people just think it’s, you know, something that’s ok. That they can get away with it.”
Drivers who injure or kill an emergency worker can now be charged with a felony. Anyone caught ignoring the "Move Over" law will now face a fine of at least $250. Pritzker also signed legislation creating a task force to study and improve Scott's Law.
State troopers have also stepped up enforcement of the law. According to Kelly, they’ve written more than 5,000 citations to drivers for disobeying Scott’s Law since January.
“Because so many more violations are being discovered, and people are being issued citations, I think the word is going to get out as a result of that," Pritzker told the bill signing crowd.
Rep. Marcus Evans (D, Chicago) believes stricter enforcement and a few more tickets will go a long way to combatting another plague of the roadways: distracted driving.
"Yes, there’s a penalty enhancement, but most importantly, there’s an awareness enhancement. We have to put the cell phones down, we have to stop the distractions in our vehicles and respect these police officers.”