On June 28, 2017 Illinois State Police Officer Ryan Albin was killed in a traffic crash involving a semi-truck. This is the third traffic crash to take an Illinois State Trooper’s life in 5 years, and all three have involved a commercial vehicle. These deaths are not only a loss to the trooper’s family and the law enforcement community, but also a loss to the State of Illinois. The Illinois Truck Enforcement Association sends it deepest condolences to the families of these troopers. To help prevent these deaths and lower the increasing number of traffic fatalities statewide, Illinois has expanded Scott’s Law beginning in 2017.
Chicago Fire Lieutenant Scott Gillen was killed in the year 2000 while assisting at a traffic crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway. As a result, Illinois passed Scott’s law, or the “move over” law. The law requires the following:
625 ILCS 5.0/11-907(c) upon approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall;
(1) proceeding with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or
(2) proceeding with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.
When a driver sees a police vehicle with its emergency lights on, pulled over on the side of the road, every effort should be made to create a wide berth for the safety of the officer and the person he is dealing with. Police officers make every attempt to stop a vehicle in place safest for all parties, but people are unpredictable and sometimes they stop in dangerous places. This creates a hazard for not only the motorist, but the officer and those travelling on the road attempting to pass.
Punishments for not giving space or slowing down are harsh, including the possibility of a 2-year driver’s license suspension if someone is injured. The goal is to keep officers safe as they work at roadside. In 2017 the law was expanded to include more than just emergency responders.
In Illinois, any vehicle with hazard lights flashing stopped on the side of the road is covered under Scott’s law. This means when you see a vehicle broken down on the side of the road, you must slow down and change lanes, if possible. Be aware people may be walking or standing on the roadway.
Construction zones are another spot where drivers must have more than normal situational awareness. Trooper Albin’s crash occurred as he and a box truck entered a construction zone and slowed for traffic. Construction zones present hazards for the workers as well as the motorists passing through them. Between years 2000-2008, 25% of work zone fatalities involved large trucks, compared to 12% of all highway fatalities.
As a large truck enters a construction zone, the driver should be concentrating on the road ahead and the changes in speed limits or traffic patterns. Often trucks are told to stay in the right lane in a construction zone, and that’s for good reason. They should be travelling slower and prepared for sudden stops. This doesn’t mean cars may continue driving through a construction zone at full throttle. Every motorist should use caution through a construction zone.
The trucking industry and law enforcement can work to reduce traffic fatalities on our roads. By providing room for stopped vehicles, you will give a police officer room to work. Being conscious of construction zones and the reduced speeds sets a tone for other motorists to change their unsafe behaviors.
Remember, that police officer pulled over on the side of the road is not just someone writing a ticket. He or she is a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, or daughter. They want to go home to their family and they are asking everyone to be more aware. Slow down and move over.