Fatal state trooper accidents are seemingly on the rise this year. State Trooper Gerald Ellis, 36, was killed early on March 30, 2019 when a driver going in the wrong direction struck his squad car. This fatal car accident in Illinois is sadly the third fatal crash involving a State Trooper in the state this year. The second fatal crash involving a State Trooper had occurred just days prior. This is a tragedy and completely avoidable and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
These fatal State Trooper accidents are part of a growing problem of drivers hitting stopped squad cars that have their emergency lights on. To be sure, many of the reported incidents have reported minimal damage with no injuries. There has been a total of 58 reported crashes involving Illinois State Police squad cars this year. Such accidents serve as an important reminder of Scott’s Law.
What is Scott’s Law?
Scott’s Law was named after Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while assisting at a crash located on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Scott’s Law governs the passage of authorized emergency vehicles. “Authorized Emergency Vehicles” are defined as any vehicle authorized by law to be equipped with oscillating, rotating or flashing lights.
It is important to note that the above definition also includes vehicles that are not strictly for emergency use. Examples include vehicles used by construction workers, tow trucks and maintenance crews. Passenger vehicles with their hazard lights on are not covered under the law.
What Should I Do When Passing a Stopped Emergency Vehicle?
When approaching a stopped authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing lights, drivers must yield the right-of-way. To yield the right-of-way, drivers must make a lane change to a lane that is not next to the authorized emergency vehicle. If the driver is unable to change lanes (i.e., it is unsafe or not possible) then he or she must reduce speed and proceed with caution past the emergency vehicle.
What are the Penalties Under Scott’s Law?
- Drivers that fail to yield the right of way or to proceed with caution where not practicable, face a fine of up to $10,000.
- Drivers that commit the offense while under the influence of alcohol or drugs face even greater penalties.
It is worth noting that following the recent State Trooper accidents there has been a push by Illinois lawmakers to stiffen the penalties under Scott’s Law. One proposal backed by Governor JB Pritzker would make violations resulting in a crash a criminal offense. Where the violation results in property damage the driver could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the crash results in injury or death the driver could be charged with a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies are punishable by up to 3 years in prison.
Law enforcement works hard to ensure that our roadways are safe, often coming to the aid of distressed drivers. We owe it to them to abide by the law to keep them safe. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident in Illinois you should not wait to contact an experienced attorney at the Chicago Legal Group. Call 847-305-4105 or fill out our online contact form to request a free case evaluation.