Our Opinion

A law named in honor a local first responder who died in the line of duty is back in the news after a traffic accident on a city expressway.

A man from suburban Westchester was arrested on Jan. 4 for drunken driving and failure to abide by Scott’s Law, named after Beverly resident Scott Gillen. It requires drivers to move over and proceed with caution when approaching a parked emergency vehicle or any parked vehicle displaying its hazards lights.

Illinois State Police (ISP) said the man in an SUV collided with an ISP squad car flashing its emergency lights in the center lane of Interstate 290 near Harlem Avenue. A 30-year-old state trooper was responding to a car that had caught fire, according to officials, and the trooper and the car’s driver were inside the ISP squad car when it was struck.

The victims were trapped and later extricated by emergency personnel for transport to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

The drunk driver was charged with suspicion of aggravated DUI, violation of Scott’s Law, driving without a license, operating an uninsured vehicle, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, following too closely and driving without a seatbelt.

His arrest was the first of 2021 for a violation of Scott’s Law, also known as the Move Over Law, and it was the first time this year that a trooper on duty was struck by a vehicle.

We hope this year is not similar to 2019, when three troopers were killed in traffic accidents.

Gillen was a Chicago Fire Department lieutenant killed by an intoxicated driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway on Dec. 23, 2000, while Gillen was working the scene of an accident.

His death was avoidable, and so are all accidents in which reckless drivers approach an emergency situation with no caution.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, Scott’s Law has applied to any vehicle on the roadside with its emergency lights activated. Violators may be fined up to $10,000 and lose their driver’s license.

“Emergency personnel risk their lives daily to protect others,” said ISP Spokesperson Jayme Bufford. “We would like to remind the motoring public to please obey all traffic laws, including the Move Over Law, in order to protect the lives of our troopers, other first responders and all members of the public.”

Preventing tragedy for first responders on our roadways is easy: slow down and move over.