By: Nicole Campbell, Class of 2020
While the laws regarding the “Rules of the Road” seemingly change all the time, many drivers only learn about these legislative updates when faced with the financial (and sometimes legal) burden accompanied by moving violations. Many motorists in Illinois are learning about Scott’s Law in this new, painful way, as law enforcement officers step up citations for failing to observe the recently amended “Move Over Law.” It was named Scott’s Law after Chicago Fire Department’s Lieutenant Scott Gillen was struck and killed by an inebriated driver while assisting at a crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
The Move Over Law was updated in early 2017 to now include application to all vehicles displaying flashing emergency lights, including commercial trucks and cars—and not just authorized emergency vehicles, like ambulances and police cars. Motorists are required to reduce speed, change lanes if possible, and proceed with due caution. Violators of Scott’s Law can be fined up to $10,000 and possibly face suspension of driving privileges if cited while under the influence.
In addition to police and other emergency vehicles, Scott’s Law governs emergency-stopped commercial trucks and cars.
Illinois law enforcement organizations are extremely motivated to enforce this, as evidenced by the over 2,000 Move Over citations issued by the Illinois State Police (ISP) thus far this year, already more than double the number issued last year. Brendan Kelly, ISP Director, has publicly stated that more drivers are violating this law than ever before, and the numbers don’t seem to suggest otherwise. Sixteen Illinois state troopers have been hit on the road and three have already been killed in 2019, alone, and the year is still less than half over. Last month, state troopers cited six violations in just one day in the city of LaSalle.
Just recently, on May 15, 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, alongside a bipartisan group of lawmakers, revealed a proposal to increase penalties and fines for violations of Scott’s Law. Their plan would increase the fine for one’s first violation from $100 to a staggering $500. Second violations would be fined no less than $1,000 under their new plan. If the violation resulted in damage to an emergency vehicle, the proposed legislation adds a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, and if an emergency worker is injured or killed, the driver could face conviction of a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years behind bars.
Formally titled Public Act 625 ILCS 5/11-907, one of the statute’s legislative proponents is an active police officer--IL State Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park). He’s stated that he knew one of the recently slain state troopers and strongly believes that stricter penalties for these violations will assist in facilitating closure for the families of those tragically lost. With all revenue generated by these violations’ fees facilitating a specific fund to educate drivers in Scott’s Law, Rep. Cabello’s said “it will show the families that we actually care… [that] we are ready to protect the protectors.”
With the increased police focus and imminently increasing penalties, it behooves one to become familiarized with the particulars of the “Move Over Law,” as spring and summer bring an increased focus on road trips. Specifically, Scott’s Law states that beyond just moving as far-right as possible when approached by emergency vehicles, “the operator of every streetcar shall immediately stop such car clear of any intersection and keep it in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer” (author’s emphasis). For drivers used to cruising around urban Chicago, this requirement could be perceived as a dangerous and counterintuitive ask. As Scott’s Law seems to be a special focus of ISP, frequently out-of-town and long-distance travelers could foreseeably bear the brunt of this now heavily-enforced moving violation.