State trooper says 'we have to educate the public' on Scott's Law

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois State Police Lt. Col. David Byrd was the on-call supervisor the night Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen was struck and killed while assisting at a crash scene in 2000.

In the nearly two decades since, Byrd said, poor driving hasn't diminished.

"Nineteen years later, it's come full circle for me," Byrd said. "We're still dealing with the same situation that occurred that night."

Byrd testified Monday evening on a recent House amendment made to Senate Bill 1862, which would create the Scott's Law Fund. According to the bill, the fund would be used to produce materials related to educating drivers "on approaching stationary authorized emergency vehicles."

He said it's been a difficult year for the Illinois State Police, which has had to deal with the deaths of Troopers Brooke Jones-Story, Jerry Ellis and Chris Lambert in the first five months.

"And this is more of a situation where we have to educate the public," Byrd said. "And we're trying to change driving behavior. That's what we want to do."

Two of the three troopers died in crashes where there was a violation of Scott's Law, named after Gillen and sometimes referred to as the "move-over law." It requires a motorist to slow down while passing stationary vehicles with flashing lights and, if safe, to change lanes.

The increased focus on Scott's Law this year has lawmakers pushing for steeper penalties.

A current violation could result in a fine of $100 to $10,000. If the legislature passes the bill, first-time violators on roadways within state police jurisdiction would pay $250 to $10,000, which would go to the Scott's Law Fund. A second violation would lead to a fine between $750 and $10,000. A $250 assessment fee would be added to each fine.

The measure dictates the money collected be used to educate drivers on how to comply with Scott's Law.

The bill's House sponsor, Democratic Rep. Marcus Evans, of Chicago, said drivers aren't being "vigilant" when it comes to approaching first responders on roadways. But he said enforcement alone won't usher in the change that's being sought.

"From my understanding, it's not just fine more; we need to educate drivers to eliminate these tragedies," Evans said.

Byrd said changing driving behaviors can be accomplished over time through educating the public and enforcing Scott's Law.

"Believe me, Illinois State Police would prefer to be spending their time working on some more serious crimes," Byrd said. "But until we change that behavior, this has to be put to the forefront."

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