ILLINOIS (WAND) - The Illinois Move Over Task Force has shared its report on the cause of Move Over Law crashes and proposed ways to protect law enforcement, emergency responders and all drivers.
Gov. JB Pritzker had formed this task force in 2019 following the roadside deaths of Illinois State Police Troopers Brooke Jones Storey and Christopher Lambert. The group looked into the Move Over Law (also known as Scott's Law), which mandates drivers change lanes if they approach stopped emergency vehicles, including highway maintenance vehicles showing flashing lights and any stopped vehicle with hazard lights on. The law requires drivers to proceed with caution, slow down and leave a safe distance until they pass if they can't safely change lanes.
The Move Over Task Force has 17 members and is chaired by Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly. It met five times in 2020 to determine ways to educate drivers, promote compliance with the law and keep further tragedies from happening.
Pritzker called the protection of troopers and first responders a "top priority for my administration." He said the report is "an important step forward" in work to protect the men and women who serve on Illinois roadways.
A press release from state police said the task force made the following recommendations:
- Adding improvements to the existing Illinois Move Over Law. As written, the law requires vehicles to make a lane change (Move Over) from the stationary authorized emergency vehicle. If a lane change is not available, vehicles must reduce their speed. The Task Force believes for vehicles to “proceed with due caution,” they should always reduce speed. Therefore, laws should say “Move Over AND Slow Down, as opposed to Move Over OR Slow Down.
- Inclusion of distracted driving as an aggravating factor for violations of the Move Over Law.
- Continued support of federal legislation, such as the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act. The Task Force agrees “Move Over” laws should be a new national safety priority in addition to existing federal grant program to increase public awareness
- More flexibility within the Illinois Procurement Code to make public safety-informed decisions on what is best for first responders when it comes to the health and safety of the public. The Task Force recommends the General Assembly pass legislation to encourage swifter acquisition of necessary public safety technology and equipment in the Illinois Procurement Code.
- Encourage the Illinois Department of Transportation to amend crash reports to capture “Move Over” law crashes and the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts to amend traffic citations to included a box to denote “Move Over” law violations. This would allow the better, more precise collection of data across all law enforcement agencies.
- Encourage all organizations with traffic safety-oriented missions to continue their efforts educating the public on the Move Over laws and to continue to research and develop new technology and evaluate what other law enforcement agencies are doing to mitigate the risk.
Along with its recommendations, the task force spent time looking into crash-avoidance technology. This included systems that use an alert to let drivers know they're approaching an emergency vehicle on the shoulder of the road, giving them more time to slow down and move over.
Troopers said ISP has worked to use technology that reduces the amount of time they spend on the side of roads working crashes, conducting inspections and competing traffic stops. ISP has announced new squad cars will have push bumpers that allow troopers to remove traffic-obstructing vehicles from roads when possible.
“We have lost so many first responders unnecessarily as they do their jobs on the side of the road,” said State Sen. Dan McConchie, a task force member. “It is the job of every driver to slow down, move over and do everything possible to protect our law enforcement, fire and EMS, and highway workers who are willingly putting themselves in harm’s way every day. I hope this task force’s work will help us save lives. I look forward to continuing to work on this issue in the months and years to come to make Illinois roads safer for everyone.”
“While progress has been made and public awareness has increased regarding Move Over laws, the daily threat to all first responders remains far too high,” said Kelly. “The good work of this task force advances the cause of protecting roadside first responders, but there is still more work to be done.”