GALENA, Ill. — Illinois State Police are reporting a sharp increase in citations for drivers failing to slow down for stopped emergency vehicles, but Jo Daviess County officials say the law is difficult to enforce.
Illinois authorities this year have issued 5,895 citations for vehicles not moving over for a police or emergency vehicle that has its lights displayed on the side of the road. Last year, there were just 732 citations.
It’s a similar story in northwest Illinois, where just nine citations were issued in 2018 in the Illinois State Police’s District 16, which is comprised of Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago and Boone counties.
This year, 180 citations have been issued throughout the district.
“In my opinion, the problem was always there,” said East Dubuque Police Chief Luke Kovacic. “It’s just now that we are focusing on enforcing it a little more.”
Scott’s Law in Illinois dictates that drivers must reduce speed and change lanes if possible when approaching any police or emergency vehicle that is stopped along the side of the road.
The law became part of the national conversation this year after a series of incidents in which law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops were struck and killed by passing vehicles.
In March, State Trooper and Warren, Ill.-native Brooke Jones-Story was killed by a semi-tractor trailer driver while conducting a traffic stop near Freeport.
Kovacic said her death inspired many local law enforcement officials to take a more proactive approach to enforcing Scott’s Law.
“You never really thought about it until it started hitting close to home,” Kovacic said. “We all knew Brooke. That hit home.”
Jo Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Turner said his office hasn’t written many more citations this year compared to previous years. He said that is mostly because the sheriff’s office lacks the resources to enforce Scott’s Law.
In most cases, two law enforcement vehicles are needed to issue a citation.
“We don’t have the manpower to try to stop it,” Turner said. “If you got a car flying by you, you can’t run back to your car and chase that other car down.”
Scott’s Law violations affect not only law enforcement. Many local emergency responders said they also deal with vehicles speeding by scenes to which they are responding.
“It’s a regular issue that emergency responders have,” said Randy Beadle, fire chief for the City of Galena. “I don’t know if people don’t know or if they don’t care.”
East Dubuque Fire Chief Joe Heim said his crews often are under threat of vehicles speeding through response scenes.
“There are a lot of people out working in the general area,” Heim said. “It poses a safety risk when cars aren’t slowing down when maneuvering around that area. It can be very dangerous.”
Beadle said he hopes the increased enforcement of Scott’s Law encourages drivers to pay more attention to police and emergency responders parked on the side of the road.
“It happens daily across the United States,” Beadle said. “There is not a day goes by that I don’t get an email about a firefighter getting killed due to the negligence of an oncoming motorist.”