SPRINGFIELD – Drivers in Illinois who injure roadside workers or fail to obey construction zone signals now face the possibility of enhanced fines, and even jail time.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a package of bills Tuesday that he said are aimed at protecting law enforcement, first responders and road workers.
Among them was Senate Bill 1862, which provides enhanced penalties for violations of “Scott’s Law,” a state law requiring motorists to slow down and, if possible, change lanes when approaching a law enforcement vehicle or other emergency responder that has pulled over on the side of the road.
“Since 2002, Scott’s Law has said that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. This is not optional,” Pritzker said in a statement announcing the bill signings. “This is how we keep our heroes and first responders as safe as possible in their line of work.”
The bill increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation of Scott’s Law, and to $750 for a second violation. It also adds a $250 fee for any violation, with that money going into a new fund to pay for driver education materials.
In addition, the new law allows drivers to be charged with a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, if the violation results in damage to another vehicle. For cases in which the violation results in the injury or death of another person, drivers can be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison.
The new law takes effect immediately.
So far in 2019, three Illinois State Police officers have been killed in traffic accidents on state highways, including two incidents that involved violations of Scott’s Law.
Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34, died Jan. 12 when he was responding to an accident in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook and was struck by another driver who failed to slow down or move over.
Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, 34, was killed March 28 when she was struck by a tractor-trailer while she was conducting a traffic stop in Freeport, in northwest Illinois.
And Trooper Gerald Wayne Ellis, 36, was killed March 30 when he collided with a wrong-way driver on Interstate 94 in Lake County.
Pritzker also signed Senate Bill 2038 establishing a 20-member “Move Over Task Force” that will study the causes of Scott’s Law violations as well as ways to protect law enforcement and emergency responders on roadways.
And Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1496, increasing penalties for violations in construction zones. Under that law, which takes effect Jan. 1, drivers can be fined between $100 and $1,000 for disobeying traffic-control devices within a designated highway construction zone or maintenance zone. It also increases from $10,000 to $25,000 the maximum fine for drivers who violate the rules on entering a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present.
PETER HANCOCK can be reached at email@example.com