Illinois News

Pike County State's Attorney to seek steeper fines for motorists striking or killing troopers

An Illinois State Police patrol car is parked outside of the Illinois State Police District 20 Headquarters in Pittsfield. ISP troopers are making a personal appeal to motorists to adhere to the state's Move Over Law, officially known as Scott's Law. The law says drivers should slow down and change lanes, if possible, when approaching a stationary vehicle with flashing lights. | H-W Photo/Ethan Colbert
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 17, 2019 7:20 am Updated: Apr. 17, 2019 7:30 am

PITTSFIELD -- Every time Illinois State Police Operations Officer Brian Anderson receives a report that one of his colleagues has been struck and killed by a motorist, he is reminded of his own close encounter.

A driver struck Anderson's patrol car after he stopped to help another motorist who had slid off the road during a snowstorm.

"If I had been out of my car assisting that motorist -- like I had been 20 seconds earlier -- then I probably would have been hit, severely injured or worse," Anderson said.

Even though he was in his patrol vehicle, Anderson said the memory remains vivid.

"When a car goes by you at 70 or 80 miles per hour, you feel it," Anderson said. "It is not a comfortable feeling. You don't forget that feeling."

Anderson recalled his close encounter during a press conference Tuesday at Illinois State Police District 20 Headquarters in Pittsfield. He was joined by other state troopers, county sheriff's officers, city police officers, local state's attorney officials and representatives of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The conference was organized to highlight an announcement from Pike County State's Attorney Zack Boren, who said his office would be seeking steeper fines for those found guilty of violating Scott's Law. The law requires drivers to move into another lane if there is a stationary vehicle with flashing lights on the road's shoulder. If motorists cannot move over -- because it is a two-lane road or because of other traffic -- they are required to slow down and use extreme caution.

The law applies to any vehicle with its lights flashing, including tow trucks, ambulances, fire trucks and vehicles with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The law's namesake, Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott P. Gillen, was killed Dec. 23, 2000, after an drunken driver struck Gillen at the scene of another vehicle crash.

Boren said his office would seek a fine of more than $500 for those found guilty of violating the law. Ultimately, motorists could be ordered to pay as much as $954, which includes court costs, if found guilty, in Pike County.

Anderson said he hopes Boren's approach is replicated in other parts of the state.

"Enough is enough," he said. "The law's safeguards are universal. If you are watching this press conference on television, reading about it in a newspaper, listening to it on the radio or reading about it on the internet, then Scott's Law was enacted to protect you. Every person in every vehicle that is stopped along the roadway is afforded its protection." Three Illinois State troopers -- Christopher Lambert, Brooke Jones-Story and Gerald Ellis -- have been killed in the line of duty this year by motorists accused of violating Scott's Law.

Anderson said each trooper's death could have been prevented.

"The magnitude of these fatalities is what brings us to this point," Anderson said.

Illinois State Police Trooper Jon K. Dively, commander of the Illinois State Police's District 20 office, said drivers must take responsibility for eliminating possible distractions within the vehicle.

"I think a lot of it comes down to cellphone usage, the lack of Bluetooth usage, and that teenagers are horrible when it comes to Facebook or Snapchat and being so preoccupied with those things rather than being focused on the task at hand," Dively said. "Inattention while driving will not only get them hurt, but also possibly kill someone else."

Things to Do