MARION — Southern Illinois law enforcement officers are participating in statewide efforts to bring more attention to Illinois law requiring that drivers switch lanes or slow down when approaching a police car on the side the road.
Deputy Brian Murrah said the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office has written a handful of tickets to motorists during the past week for violations of Scott’s Law, as Illinois’ move-over law is known, during an enhanced enforcement period. The law applies to law enforcement vehicles, as well as other emergency assist vehicles with flashing hazard lights.
Murrah said two motorists were ticketed for violations of the law on Saturday during routine speed enforcement along Interstate 57, while 32 drivers received either citations or warnings for speeding.
The sheriff’s office also monitored for Scott’s Law violations on Thursday and Monday on Illinois 13. Several citations were issued over the course of both days during brief, impromptu enforcement details, Murrah said. Enforcement generally requires at least two deputies, allowing one to monitor cars for compliance while the other participates in a routine roadside stop.
“It’s the unanimous opinion of deputies that violations are much worse on Illinois 13 than the interstate,” Murrah said. Murrah said that on Illinois 13, people tend to drive fast and aggressively. For instance, deputies observed cases of drivers moving into the right lane as they were supposed to, only to prompt drivers behind them to quickly move into the left lane and seek to pass them as if they had been cut off.
“This comes from not paying attention to what’s ahead of you,” Murrah said.
In other cases, drivers didn't attempt to slow down or switch lanes at all. In one case, a deputy reported that a vehicle drove by so close and so fast that it caused the squad car to rock.
The stepped up effort to enforce Scott’s Law in Williamson County was through its participation in the Illinois Sheriff’s Association 2019 Officer Safety and Scott’s Law Safety Initiative. The special enforcement period aims to bring statewide awareness to Scott’s Law and the dangers of distracted driving, according to a press release from the sheriff’s association. It began last Friday and ends this Friday, though Murrah said drivers should be mindful that it’s always the law.
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“An officer is more likely to be injured on the side of the road than while responding to a domestic call or bar fight or any of the more exciting things we do," he said. "That’s not to diminish the stress level or danger of those calls. But we handle more things on the side of the road."
The first few months of 2019 have been tragic for the Illinois State Police, prompting a renewed statewide effort to educate drivers about Scott's Law. Sixteen state troopers have been struck by a vehicle this year, and three have been killed.
Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was killed when she was struck during a roadside inspection in March in Stephenson County. In January, Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed when he was struck by a vehicle that failed to stop while he was on the scene of a three-vehicle crash on Interstate 294.
Also in March, Trooper Gerald Ellis was killed when his vehicle was struck head-on by a driver headed the wrong way on Interstate 94 in Green Oaks as he was finishing his shift and heading home to his wife and children.
“I think those unfortunate situations really brings to light the danger that we all face in this job. And it’s not just from bullets,” said Sgt. Doug Wilson, of the Carbondale Police Department.
The Carbondale Police Department is not running a special enforcement initiative, but will write tickets when drivers are spotted violating the law, Wilson said. “It’s definitely something we take seriously."
Last week, a bill advanced through the Illinois Senate that would require the state to add a question about Scott’s Law to its driver's test. It would also require Division of Motor Vehicles offices in Illinois to provide flyers to drivers about the law upon renewal of their licenses.
The Illinois State Board of Education also announced last week that it is partnering with the Illinois State Police to better educate teen drivers about Scott’s Law. They have created and distributed flyers to driver education programs, district and regional superintendents and principals to post in classrooms and send home with students.
The law is named for Lt. Scott Gillen, who was killed on Dec. 23, 2000, when he was struck by a vehicle while assisting at the scene of a crash for the Chicago Fire Department.