(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will bolster Scott’s Law by strengthing punishments for violators and improve mental health resources for first responders in Illinois.
The “move over” law was revised in Illinois in 2017 to apply to all vehicles that display flashing emergency lights, including commercial trucks and cars and no longer was limited to authorized emergency vehicles.
The law was renamed Scott’s Law after Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department was struck and killed by a drunk driver while assisting at an accident.
Earlier this year, Illinois State Police reported over 1,300 violations of the law during a 19-day period.
“There are many disturbing statistics that bring us here, but I will keep the statistics simple today,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly at the bills signing Thursday.
“How many troopers and other first responders have been struck by drivers violating the move over law? Too many. How many troopers and first responders have been killed by drivers violating the mover over law? Too many,” Kelly said.
Senate Bill 1913 will allow courts to order community service as a form of punishment for violating Scott’s Law, in addition to other penalties.
“Scott’s Law should be common sense, yet every day dozens of people are breaking it and putting officers at risk,” said co-sponsor Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Lake Forest.
“Writing a check for a fine doesn’t seem to be enough for some people, so we need to do all we can to make sure the purpose of this law is heard loud and clear, and we do that by requiring people to give up their free time to do community service work,” Morrison said.
Also on hand for the signing was Lauren Frank, wife of State Trooper Brian Frank, who recalled the night when her husband was struck on the roadside near Joliet.
“I got the phone call that every spouse of a first responder dreads, and all they said was it is bad, but he’s breathing,” said Frank.
Frank remains hospitalized six months after the crash with severe brain injuries. He recently was awarded Officer of the Year by the agency’s criminal patrol team.
House Bill 3656 further clarifies a driver’s duty to respond to an emergency scene on the road. It also establishes the Move Over Early Warning Task Force, which will study how to use 21st-century technology to help drive safely drive through an emergency zone.
Senate Bill 1575 requires the creation of an online resource page with a collection of mental health resources geared toward first responders. It will include crisis services, depression, violence prevention, suicide prevention and substance use.
“When we are in crisis, first responders show up with the tools, skills, and courage to help us at a moment’s notice – without hesitation. It’s our responsibility to provide our heroes with the protection and resources they need to make their work safer,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said.
“I’m proud to sign these three measures today, but I want to remind you: our strongest asset in protecting our law enforcement is not a law on the books but our people on the ground. This is a wake-up call to every resident of Illinois. Your distracted driving could be someone else’s worst nightmare – and no text is worth that,” Pritzker said.
“We can’t legislate bad people from doing evil things. We can’t stop all the accidents on the highway, but I am going to try,” said co-sponsor Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago.
The laws go into effect on January 1, 2022.
The Center Square and Lake and McHenry County Scanner both contributed to this story.