Injured state trooper’s wife attends bill-signing event, urging motorists to slow down as she recounts day ‘our entire life stood still’

Joining Gov. J.B. Pritzker was Lauren Frank, the wife of Illinois State Trooper Brian Frank, who suffered a severe brain injury when he was struck at an accident scene in February. “The roller coaster that we’ve been on for six months has been excruciating, and it was all preventable,” she said.

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Lauren Frank, the wife of Illinois State Trooper Brian Frank, who was struck while responding to an accident in February, speaks at a bill-signing ceremony in Springfield on Thursday.

Lauren Frank, the wife of Illinois State Trooper Brian Frank, who was struck while responding to an accident in February, speaks at a bill-signing ceremony in Springfield on Thursday.

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Standing with the wife of an Illinois state trooper whose life has become an excruciating “roller coaster” of doctors and hospitals since he was struck at an accident scene this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Thursday that the governor said should serve as a “wake-up call” to motorists.

The three pieces of legislation that Pritzker signed into law all deal with protecting the state’s first responders at accident scenes and other emergency sites. But the governor said the key is for drivers to pay attention and slow down.

“I want to be clear that our strongest asset in protecting our law enforcement is not a law on the books, it’s our people on the ground,” Pritzker said. “This is a wake-up call for every resident of Illinois — your distracted driving could be someone else’s worst nightmare and no text or other distraction is worth that.”

Pritzker was joined by the sponsors of the legislation as well as Illinois state troopers in the Illinois State Capitol for the signing. All observed a moment of silence for deceased troopers and Chicago Police Officer Ella French, who was shot and killed over the weekend.

Also attending the solemn bill-signing ceremony was Lauren Frank, the wife of Illinois State Trooper Brian Frank, who was struck while responding to an accident in February. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.

Despite the initial “devastating prognosis” from the doctors, he lived, Lauren Frank said. As of Thursday, Brian Frank remains in a minimally conscious state.

“The roller coaster that we’ve been on for six months has been excruciating, and it was all preventable,” Lauren Frank said in an emotional recounting of the day when “our entire life stood still.”

Lauren Frank speaks at the bill-signing ceremony in Springfield on Thursday.

Lauren Frank speaks at the bill-signing ceremony in Springfield on Thursday.

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In the past six months, she and her husband have endured an ordeal of 35 doctors, four hospitals, three brain surgeries, two emergency room visits, 12 ambulance rides and eight weeks of therapy.

While Brian Frank has made “exciting” progress, the “setbacks are devastating, and the unknowns of our future are overwhelming,” Lauren Frank said.

And she’s had to survive “every heartbreaking hour without the reassurance from the one person I love the most that everything is going to be OK.

“He does not intentionally respond to me, and I miss him every day.”

The new laws Pritzker signed on Thursday clarify how a driver should respond when approaching an emergency scene on the road. They also require the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health to create an online resource page with mental health resources specifically geared toward first responders, and allow state courts to order community service as a form of punishment for anyone who violates Scott’s Law.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs one of the bills designed to protect first responders at emergencies on Thursday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs one of the bills designed to protect first responders at emergencies on Thursday.

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That 2002 law, named for Chicago Fire Lt. Scott Gillen, who was struck and killed while responding to a traffic accident, requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching a vehicle that has its hazard lights on. Failing to do so could result in a fine up to $10,000.

State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, said the measures signed into law Thursday are “just a step toward tightening the screws on Scott’s Law.”

“We can’t legislate bad people from doing evil things,” Hurley said. “We can’t stop all the accidents on the highway but I’m going to try, and I think everybody that supports police here and first responders will try as well.”

Along with clarifying a driver’s duty to move over and slow down, the legislation Hurley sponsored also creates the Move Over Early Warning Task Force, which will study how to use 21st century technology to better help drivers safely navigate an emergency zone and adds that if a person violates Scott’s Law while using a cell phone that will be considered an aggravating factor.

State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, speaks at the bill-signing ceremony on Thursday.

State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, speaks at the bill-signing ceremony on Thursday.

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Lauren Frank said she didn’t know much about Scott’s Law until her husband was struck on Interstate 55 near Joliet on Feb. 15.

“The daily grief sits heavily on us as we wait and watch Brian fight for his life to come back to us. And again, this was all preventable,” Lauren Frank said.

She said now Scott’s Law is also Brian’s Law — and Trooper Christopher Lambert’s law, Trooper Brooke Jones’ Law and “far too many others to list.”

The new measures that Pritzker signed into law on Thursday make changes so that “we may change our actions and spare the trooper, the trooper wife or husband, parent, sibling, friend,” Lauren Frank said, but it’s also to spare other motorists.

“You don’t want to be the person who walks around with this burden of guilt and responsibility for the rest of your life, knowing that such an accident is preventable,” she said.

“Our first responders count the lives of others as more precious than their own. They risk their lives for us every single day, and the simplest thing that we can do is honor them and count their lives precious, too, by slowing down and getting over ... [first responders] lay down their future, they lay down their life for you.

“So, I’m asking you today, when you get into a vehicle, lay down your distractions. Lay down your hurry, lay down your phone. Lay it down — choose to love one another.”

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