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With more troopers hit by cars, Pritzker, state police remind drivers: move over

Gov. J.B. Pritzker joined Illinois State Police troopers and State Police Director Brendan Kelly to remind drivers the law requires them to slow down and, if possible, move over when they see an emergency vehicle pulled over to the side of the road. So far this year, 14 troopers have been struck by cars, one fatally. That's more than in each of the last three years. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

With 14 Illinois State Police troopers hit by vehicles so far this year, including one killed, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly on Monday urged drivers to slow down and obey the law when approaching emergency vehicles at the side of the road.

More state troopers have been injured this year than in each of the previous three years. And there’s no clear reason, officials said.

Pritzker and Kelly stood alongside dozens of troopers at a Chicago press conference to urge motorists to abide by Scott’s Law, the “Move Over Law,” which requires motorists to approach with caution and yield to emergency vehicles. Drivers also should change lanes if possible — or, if they can’t, slow down and proceed with caution. As of 2017, the law was updated to include the general public when pulled over with emergency flashers on.

“This is not optional. And it shouldn’t be. Our state troopers are putting their lives on the line every day. They are our heroes, our first responders, keeping people safe,” Pritzker said. “No driver needs to get to their destination so quickly that they need to put a trooper’s life at risk. No one’s time or convenience is worth more than the lives of our state’s heroes.”

Kelly said police looked at time, date, location and weather and found “no common denominator” in this year’s crashes involving troopers.

“This year is frankly unprecedented when looking at all statistics. So this is an increasingly great risk for the troopers that are on the side for the road just doing their job, doing traffic enforcement, DUI enforcement, doing criminal patrol duty for drugs and guns,” Kelly said. “So, this is a new level of disregard that we’re seeing by some driving members of the public.”

Violators are fined $100 to $10,000, and have their license suspended for up to two years. But Kelly said police are “ready, and willing and able” to speak with legislators to consider more severe penalties. Under the current law, drivers can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Illinois State Police Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34, was killed in January as he pulled over to report two crashes involving three vehicles on northbound I-294 near Willow Road. Prosecutors said Lambert got out of his squad car and stood in the left shoulder to collect the information of the drivers involved in that crash. A jeep hit Lambert, sending him airborne, before it hit the crashed vehicles.

Scott A. Larsen, 61, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was charged with one count of reckless homicide of a police officer and two counts of reckless homicide involving Scott’s Law.