CHICAGO — Law enforcement and political leaders are calling for stricter laws to protect officers during traffic stops after a string of accidents involving state troopers this year, some of them deadly.
In just the first three months of 2019, three Illinois state troopers were laid to rest after they were struck by vehicles while they were on the road keeping others safe. A total of 16 troopers have been hit so far this year, more than 2017 and 2018 combined, according to the Illinois State Police.
“The calls to comfort the families, the funerals laying our heroes to rest, there have been too many,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said.
Less than two months after the last fatality, officials and Gov. Pritzker announced new legislation in Springfield to crack down on violations of Scott's Law. The law requires drivers to slow down and change lanes if they see first responders or emergency vehicles on the side of the road with their lights flashing. In 2017, the "Move Over" law expanded to include all motorists pulled over with lights on.
“The pain and sadness is still fresh, but sadness is not enough. There have been many memorials, but memorials are not enough. There’s righteous anger is not enough. We all have to act,” Illinois State Police Acting Director Brendan Kelly said.
While Scott's Law is meant to encourage drivers to move over (or get ticketed), few seem to be getting the message. Between January 1 and May 12 of this year, Illinois State Police issued citations for more than 2,200 Scotts Law violations. The year before it was just over 300.
If passed, Senate Bill 1862 will clarify the language of Scott’s Law, create a "move over" task force to study violations and suggest improvements, enhance penalties and expand education about the law. Officials say the stricter penalties will be more closely aligned with those assigned for preventing crashes in work zones.
“It’s a shame we had to come in and put some enhancement penalties with this; hopefully people will realize they can go to jail for this and pay some hefty fines, but not only that, you can seriously hurt someone or kill someone," said Illinois State Senator Antonio Muoz (D-Chicago).
Under the new law, a first offense would cost $500, $250 for the violation and $250 assessment for a Scotts Law Fund. Subsequent offenses would total $750 dollars, including that $250 dollar assessment with each violation. The assessment fees would be used to expand education about the law. The written driving test would also be changed to include a question about Scott's Law for both new drivers and those renewing their licenses.