Highway safety measure advances

2014-04-05T17:04:00Z Highway safety measure advancesKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
April 05, 2014 5:04 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Motorists who endanger emergency crews on highways could face stiffer penalties under legislation moving through the Illinois Legislature.

The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, is among a number of initiatives underway in Illinois designed to protect police, fire and other emergency personnel when they are working at accident sites.

The measure increases penalties for violating Scott's Law, which requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles that have their flashers activated. In particular, if a violation of Scott's Law results in a death, the driver can be charged with a Class 4 felony.

The change comes at the suggestion of McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers whose office recently won a conviction in a case involving a truck driver whose vehicle killed Hudson firefighter Chris Brown as he worked at an accident site on Interstate 39.

Evidence presented in the trial showed the 74,000-pound truck was traveling at least 37 mph when it slammed into an emergency vehicle, setting off a chain reaction that killed Brown and damaged a state police squad car and a fire engine.

Similar accidents in other areas of the state have put a spotlight on the safety of emergency workers.

In January, an Illinois Tollway employee was killed and an Illinois State Police trooper was seriously injured by a truck on Interstate 88 when they were assisting the driver of a disabled semitrailer in Aurora.

"Unfortunately, we're still experiencing tragedies in which police, EMS workers and others are struck and killed by careless drivers," Brady said.

Along with Brady's proposal, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, has introduced legislation to create a task force to study the safety of emergency response workers.

And, the state police, tollway officials and the Illinois Department of Transportation have been working together to launch a public safety campaign regarding commercial motor vehicle safety.

In testimony to a House committee this week, State Police Director Hiram Grau said the agency has freed up troopers to conduct more frequent truck inspections.

State police also have conducted trucking enforcement details in a number of counties, including McLean and Jefferson.

Officials also have launched a media campaign aimed at truckers, advertising on billboards, industry magazines and in gas stations and truck stops.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said he's asked the state police if it would be feasible to pull cars over on exit ramps, rather than on the shoulders of busy roadways.

"We're just trying to look for some kinds of changes that might protect people," Arroyo said Friday.

The legislation is House Bill 5416.

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