Editorial: Special focus on 'Move Over Law' calls attention to common-sense driving
All this week, Illinois State Police will have extra details on Illinois highways to boost enforcement of the state's "Move Over Law," which seeks to protect first responders working with stopped motorists.
This law -- also known as "Scott's Law," in honor of Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen who was killed in December 2000 while assisting motorists on the Dan Ryan Expressway -- is one of those whose need seems to defy logic. Doesn't it seem like simple common sense for drivers to move over a lane -- for their own safety if not that of others -- when they're approaching at highway speeds vehicles stopped on the shoulder, especially when emergency lights are flashing?
It may, but if so, thousands of Illinois motorists ignore this simple act of safety every year. State police issued nearly 6,500 citations for violating Scott's Law in 2019, and they reported more crashes last year involving vehicles that failed to move over for police vehicles than in the previous three years combined.
The stepped-up enforcement this week is intended to mark the anniversary of the death of Trooper Christopher Lambert, of Highland Park, who was killed Jan. 12, 2019, when he was struck by an SUV as he helped drivers along Interstate 294 near Northbrook.
The observance also highlights increased penalties intended to get people's attention.
Under legislation signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year, a Scott's Law ticket now can bring a $250 fine for a first violation and a $750 fine for subsequent violations. Additional penalties, including license suspension, can occur if a violation results in property damage or personal injury.
In a press release announcing this week's crackdown, ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly praised the character and bravery of first responders like Lambert.
"We will continue to honor Trooper Lambert's legacy, and we ask the public to join our efforts," he said. "Slow down and, if possible, move over if you see a police or other emergency vehicles stopped along the roadway."
Scott's) Law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching stationary emergency vehicles displaying flashing lights, and any stationary vehicle with hazard lights activated. If it's not safe to change lanes, drivers at least must slow down.
It is a sad commentary on our driving habits that it sometimes requires resorting to harsh penalties or special enforcement efforts to draw attention to such common-sense, life-and-death considerations on the highway.
Let's hope the police's increased focus will have the effect that logic apparently often does not have when it comes to respecting the safety of police, firefighters, medical personnel, highway workers and other first responders.