It was at the end of March in 2019 when acting Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly held a press conference. It was a somber one, with an important message. In the first three months of the year, motorists had already crashed into 14 squad cars pulled over along state roads. One trooper lost his life due to one of these crashes. That is more than one accident a week. In total, there were 494 recorded violations, a huge jump from the 184 the year before within the same period of time. It is something Kelly wants stopped.
“It is uncertain why it has been such a problem this year,” says Michael McCready of McCready Law. “Motorists simply need to watch where they are going and give troopers the room they need to do their job properly. That is what Scott’s Law is all about. Failing to abide by it could come with harsh penalties.”
That is true. Scott’s Law is a statewide law named after a Chicago firefighter, Scott Gillen. Gillen passed away after being struck by a vehicle while working a crash scene on a Chicago expressway in 2000. In 2002, Illinois passed the law requiring all motorists to move to another lane or give officers and patrol cars as much room as possible when they were at the side of the road. In 2013, that law was expanded to include all emergency vehicles and tow trucks.
Penalties for violating the law can be steep, with drivers facing a maximum fine of $10,000. If the motorist involved is driving impaired, that is considered an aggravating factor and the fine is increased.
Kelly also said during his March press conference that he did not think those fines were enough. Given the number of car accidents from early this year, perhaps they are not. That is the reason he is looking to increase the penalties, as well as enforcement of the law. He warned drivers that it would no longer be just one lone trooper out there, but that there could be videos and other equipment that can help catch those in violation of the law.
The fine for violating Scott’s Law may seem substantial to some, but it is important to remember that emergency workers are paying a much higher price when this law is broken. They are paying with their life.