What is the “Move Over Law” in Illinois? (And Why Is It Important?)

All of us have been there: You’re driving down the highway and see a police car on the side of the road that has just pulled another vehicle over (like in the photo above). For many of us, we instinctively slow down or attempt to move over a lane to give the police officer more space. If that’s not your instinct, it should be – it’s the law.

The story behind “Scott’s Law”

In Illinois, Scott’s Law or the “Move Over Law” is a statute named in honor of Scott Gillen, a Chicago firefighter who was struck and killed while working at a crash scene on the Dan Ryan Expressway in 2000. In response to Scott’s death, the Illinois legislature passed Scott’s Law in 2002. The law requires any vehicles to change lanes if possible and reduce speed when approaching an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

When Scott’s Law was first passed, it only protected emergency vehicles with their lights on and construction workers in work zones. In 2017, Scott’s Law was expanded to protect all stopped or disabled vehicles displaying flashing warning lights.

What does Illinois’s “Move Over Law” really say?

As the law in Illinois stands now, the “Move Over Law” states that drivers approaching a stationary vehicle displaying flashing warning lights must:

  • Slow down
  • Drive with caution
  • Move over to another lane if it can be done safely. If not, further reduce speed.

If you approach emergency vehicles in construction zones, you must be even more cautious. Drivers are required to discontinue wireless use until they have safely passed the disabled vehicle.

Fines for violating “Scott’s Law” will increase in 2020

Illinois has recognized the danger of motorists failing to abide by Scott’s Law and has acted accordingly. In July 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an amendment to Scott’s Law that increases penalties for violators of the statute. Instead of a minimum $100, the new amendment increases the fine for a first time violation to a minimum of $250. Each subsequent violation is subject to a fine of a minimum of $750 and up to $10,000. The law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Unfortunately, Scott’s Law has not resolved this critical highway safety problem. In just the first three months of 2019, sixteen Illinois state troopers were struck by vehicles. Three of them were killed in the crash. An Illinois State Police spokesperson highlighted the dangers of violating Scott’s law in a CNN article from earlier this year.[1] Before 2019, the Illinois State Police had not lost three troopers to crash-related deaths in 66 years.

As highway safety advocates, we encourage compliance with Scott’s Law strongly. Simply put, it saves lives. If your car ever breaks down and is disabled, make sure to turn on your hazard lights to warn all other drivers to slow down, drive carefully, and move over to allow you more space.

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/30/us/illinois-state-troopers-killed-drivers/index.html

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