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Move Over Illinois. Make Room for Emergency Responders

First responders are rescuing in a car crash scene

Illinois law requires that drivers move over for the safety of emergency responders, but motorists have not complied. New incidents highlight the dangers that troopers and emergency personnel face when doing their job. Recently, one trooper nearly lost his life when his squad car was struck by a semi truck on the side of I-39 near Sycamore.

Scott’s Law Protects Illinois First Responders

Illinois is one of a number of states that have enacted laws to protect first responders, countering mounting injury numbers. According to a federal government report, motorists struck 15 stopped police vehicles on the side of the road with the lights flashing just in the first three months of 2019. Scott’s Law, named for a firefighter who was killed while assisting on the Dan Ryan Expressway, requires that drivers move over, slow down, and approach with caution when they see an emergency vehicle.

Drivers have not fully complied with the law, however. The state has ramped up enforcement efforts, but Illinois drivers are still not getting the message. In early 2020, Illinois launched “Operation Lambert” to enforce the law. Police issued nearly 300 citations and arrested 77 drivers during that effort, but there is still more work to be done. Illinois has also increased the penalties for a first violation of the law.

First Responders Are Still in Danger

Recent incidents have underscored the risks that first responders face, notwithstanding the law that is supposed to protect them. In addition to enforcement sweeps, state officials have continuously reminded drivers about the need to follow the law. It takes time for new laws to become engrained in driving habits. In the meantime, there are continued incidents like the one on I-39 involving a trooper who was sent to the hospital and narrowly averted dying when a semi truck hit his car with him inside. The truck had tried too late to move to the left lane but veered back into the right lane before hitting the police car.

Injured first responders and their families can file a lawsuit against the responsible driver when they have been injured in a crash. Even though the injury occurs on the job, they are not limited to workers’ compensation benefits when a third party is responsible for the crash. This would increase their recovery since they could be paid for some damages that workers’ compensation does not cover.

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