The unofficial rules of the roadway have always dictated that drivers use extra caution when they approach vehicles stopped on the side of the roadway. In the State of Illinois though, Scott’s Law actually mandates that a driver mover over or slow down when approaching certain stationary vehicles along the side of the roadway. Whether you drive in Chicago, Arlington Heights, or anywhere in the state, understanding the Scott Law as well as the potential penalties for violating the law, is essential.
What Is Scott’s Law?
Also referred to as the “Move Over Law”, Scott’s Law is named after Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department who was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver while assisting at a crash scene along a Chicago expressway in 2000. The law was enacted in the hope of preventing similar tragedies in the future.
What Are the Requirements of Scott’s Law?
Governed by the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 5/11-907(c), Scott’s Law requires a motorist who is approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue, or amber or yellow warning lights to do one of the following:
- Proceed with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or
- Proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintain a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.
In other words, you must move over a lane when it is possible and safe to do so. If it is not possible or safe to change lanes, you must slow down.
What Vehicles Are Covered by Scott’s Law?
The Scott Law is not limited to police, fire, and ambulance vehicles. In fact, the law also applies to construction vehicles, municipal vehicles, tow trucks and other vehicles displaying emergency lights. It does not, however, apply to a passenger vehicle, but a recent amendment to Scott’s Law, in the form of new section 11-907.5, applies to any vehicle that is disabled on the side of the highway, with its hazard lights activated. Now that any and all vehicles on the side of the road, with lights flashing, are now protected under the vehicle code, it is wise to err on the side of caution, always be on the lookout for vehicles on the side of the road with flashing lights, and move over and/or slow down if you see one up ahead..
What Are the Penalties for a Violation of Scott’s Law?
The penalties to a motorist who fails to yield pursuant to Scott’s Law can be serious, garnering a fine of $250 up to $10,000 for the first offense, and a mandatory minimum fine of $750.00 up to $10,000.00 for the second or subsequent offense. In addition:
- If your failure to yield results in damage to the property of another, it is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a period of up to 364 days in jail, and a fine up to $2,500 and your license may be suspended for 90 days up to one year.
- If your violation causes injury to another person, it is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by a prison term of 1 to 3 years, a fine up to $25,000; your driving privileges may be suspended for not less than 180 days and not more than two years.
- If your failure to yield results in the death of another, your driving privileges will be suspended for two years in addition to any criminal and/or civil penalties you receive.
- A violation of 11-907.5, regarding disabled non-emergency vehicles, is a petty offense punishable by a fine only.
What if an Accident Occurs During a Scott’s Law Violation?
As one can see, the “move over” laws punish more severely those that were involved in an accident, and the penalties increase from a petty offense for simply failing to move over, up to serious felony charges, as stated above. However, in addition to the charge of violating Scott’s Law, when an accident occurs during a Scott’s Law violation, there are likely to be other collateral consequences, as well as additional traffic and/or criminal charges brought contemporaneously which may include:
Failure to Reduce Speed
Under Section 11-601 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, if a person fails to reduce their speed to avoid an accident, or is driving too fast for the road conditions, they are as guilty of speeding as if they were violating a posted speed limit. Suppose an emergency vehicle, such as a maintenance truck with flashing yellow lights, is parked on the shoulder, and you do not change lanes or slow down to a safe speed in violation of Scott’s Law.
Let us then suppose that, as you proceed, another vehicle, parked in front of the truck, pulls out into the roadway directly in front of you. You are not able to slow down quickly enough and your vehicle strikes the rear end of this other vehicle. You will be charged, in addition to the Scott’s Law violation, with a violation of 11-601. It will be considered a factor in aggravation that the accident was preceded by the Scott’s law violation, which may affect the disposition in court. Certainly, you can expect that you may be dropped by your insurance agency or for your rates to increase.
Following Too Closely
This charge is a close cousin to the failure to reduce speed/driving too fast for conditions. It occurs when you are driving your vehicle at a distance from the vehicle in front of yours that is too close for the speed at which you are travelling, and/or the conditions of the roadway itself (e.g. rain slicked, “black ice”, etc.). However, unlike its cousin, there need not be an accident, one can be cited for what is commonly called “tailgating.” Having said that though, the vast majority of the time it is charged following a rear-end collision in moving traffic. How might this happen with a Scott’s Law violation?
Say you are following a semi-trailer in the right lane, so close to the rear that you cannot see the side mirrors on the truck, or anything to the sides of the truck, or in front of the truck, the way you might if you were back a safer distance. Say the truck violates Scott’s Law, as do you, because you were following so closely that you didn’t see the flashing lights ahead. If an accident ensues involving your vehicle, you can expect harsh treatment at court if it is found that your driving was an aggravating factor.
When your driving is so out of control that it can be said that you are operating your vehicle with wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of other persons or property, then you are guilty of Reckless Driving. By itself, it is a Class A misdemeanor even when there is no accident. However, if there is an accident and it results in great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability to another, then it becomes a Class 4 Felony. Now, factor in if such driving is accompanied by a violation of Scott’s Law. Each charge, the Reckless Driving and the Scott’s Law serve to be considered aggravation for sentencing purposes.
Say you are travelling at a rate of speed well in excess of the speed limits and the other vehicles on the road, and you are changing lanes with no signal, riding up on other vehicles in an aggressive manner, cutting off vehicles, and you use the open lane (which is likely open due to the squad car with flashing lights parked on the shoulder) to pass everybody. If all you can say is “at least I didn’t hit anybody” as your defense, you are in big trouble. Now, if an accident were to occur involving the Trooper on the side of the road and the vehicle he had stopped, you could also be looking at serious jail time.
Leaving the Scene
When one is involved in an accident that causes damage to another vehicle or to fixed property (such as a light pole, or a guard rail) or personal injury to anyone, the law requires that you interact immediately at the scene. In the case of hitting fixed property, you must notify the police and the owner of the property, provide your license and insurance, and so on. When you hit another vehicle in traffic, you must notify the police, exchange information with the other driver, wait on scene if directed to, or file a report at the station if so directed. If another person is injured, you must remain on scene, render what assistance you can, and wait for help to arrive. If you are in an accident, and do not do what the law requires, you are committing at the least, a Class A misdemeanor, and if great bodily harm or death result from the accident, a Class 4 felony. Again, if you violated Scott’s Law as part of such an accident and you injured an authorized emergency worker, or worse, a first responder, you are possibly facing a long jail sentence as well.
In such a circumstance, do not think that you can “get away”. There are cameras recording movements on the Tollways and Highways that police have immediate access to. It is wiser to remain on the scene and provide your driver’s license and insurance. As for the accident, you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions, or to offer any explanations as to how the accident may have occurred. If you are requested to perform field sobriety tests, or to submit to chemical testing, you also have the right to refuse to do those things as well. It is never a factor in aggravation that one asserted his or her rights under the Constitution. The police cannot force you to perform field sobriety testing as an ordinary motorist and the only way they can forcibly draw blood at a hospital is if they obtain a search warrant from a judge.
Contact a Chicago Scott’s Law Lawyer Today
If you were recently accused of a violation of Scott’s Law, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced traffic law attorney right away. Contact an experienced Chicago Scott's Law lawyer at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today by calling (312) 728-8926 or by filling out our online contact form.