The only thing more annoying than a traffic ticket in Will County, Illinois, is getting a ticket for violating a law you didn’t even know existed. Since its enactment in 2002, drivers throughout Illinois have been learning about Scott’s Law the hard way, facing fines up to $10,000 and even having their licenses suspended.

Scott’s Law, also known as the “Move Over Law,” has its inception in a tragic event. In December 2000, Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department was struck and killed while assisting at a crash scene on a Chicago expressway. A passing car, driving too fast and too close to the crash scene, lost control just as it was passing Gillen’s parked fire truck, striking the Lieutenant and fatally injuring him.

So prompted the passing of Scott’s Law, which requires all drivers in Will County and everywhere in Illinois to slow down and, if possible, change lanes when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road with its lights flashing. This certainly seems reasonable, especially when passing by a major crash scene with closed lanes, fire trucks, and ambulances like the one Lieutenant Scott Gillen was involved in. However, Scott’s Law applies in all situations where an emergency or municipal vehicle is parked on the side of the road with its lights flashing. The statute reads as follows:

When a stationary authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall 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 changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, the driver must reduce his speed and proceed with due caution past the emergency vehicle.

An “authorized emergency vehicle” is any vehicle authorized to be equipped with oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights while the owner or operator of the vehicle is engaged in his or her official duties. Note that this definition encompasses even those vehicles that are not strictly for emergency use, such as vehicles and equipment used by construction workers, maintenance crews, surveyors, and some tow trucks. Passenger vehicles parked with their hazard lights flashing do not count as “emergency vehicles,” although you should still use caution when passing such a vehicle since its driver may on the road changing a tire or otherwise tending to his automobile.

The takeaway from this cautionary article is this: If you are driving anywhere in Will County or in Illinois and see a vehicle with flashing, rotating or oscillating lights parked up ahead of you, move over a lane (if you can) to give the parked vehicle a wider berth. If you cannot safely change lanes, or if you are on a two-lane road, slow down and proceed past the emergency vehicle with caution.

Perhaps one of the most common situations in which people find themselves ticketed under Scott’s Law is when they pass a police car parked on the side of the road with its lights flashing. Even if the officer does not appear to be doing anything outside his vehicle, you must obey Scott’s Law. Remember: If the lights are flashing, give him space.

If you have been ticketed in Joliet, Will County, or a surrounding area for violating Scott’s Law (625 ILCS 5/11-907(c)), your citation likely indicates that a court appearance is required. To discuss your situation, contact an experienced Joliet traffic attorney such as Hamilton & Antonsen at 815.729.9220 for help in defending your case.

Written by: Sarah Hanneken