DECATUR — There are several new laws going into effect this year, including an addition to a law to further protect anyone pulled over on the highway.
In 2001, Illinois passed Scott's Law, also called the "Move Over" law, which requires motorists to slow down or change lanes when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle with its emergency lights activated. Beginning in 2017 this law will also apply to any vehicle on the side of the road with hazard lights activated.
Illinois State Police District 10 Safety Education Officer Tracy Lillard said the law requires drivers to change lanes if possible, but to slow down if changing lanes isn't possible. Lillard said there's no exact speed to drive when encountering a car with its flashers on the side of the road, but said the National Safety Council recommends slowing to 20 miles under the speed limit.
"Speed can really depend on the conditions — there's no hard and fast rule, but we recommend using common sense depending on the situation," Lillard said. "Being parked on the side of the road with a flat tire can be terrifying when cars are flying by at 70. If you were parked on the side of the road with a flat tire, how fast would you want people driving past you?
"Or, if it was your 87-year-old grandma out there stranded on the side of the road — wouldn't you want people to slow down for her?"
Lillard said cars unable to change lanes when approaching a vehicle with flashing lights should turn their hazard lights on to alert the cars behind them they're slowing down and to use caution. She also said extra care should be taken in ice, snow, rain and fog.
Scott's Law was enacted in memory of Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department, who was killed in 2000 by an intoxicated driver. The law has made it safer for first responders on the highway, and Lillard said the addition to the law will extend that safety to all motorists in emergency situations on the highway.
"We can write a citation if we observe a violation where no attempt to get over or slow down is made," Lillard said. "We're hoping it will eliminate the crashes we're having with motorists being struck in emergency situations on the side of the road."
Lillard said some state troopers have noticed an increase of people pulling over on the side of the interstate and turning their hazard lights on to make calls, texts or emails on their cell phones.
"The side of the road on an interstate isn't the safest location to make phone calls, texts or emails that aren't emergency situations," Lillard said. "If you do want to use your phone, we suggest pulling off to the side on an exit ramp."
Another addition for 2017 involves speeding. Driving 26 miles per hour or more above the speed limit, but less than 35 MPH above, is now a Class B misdemeanor, and 35 miles per hour or more in excess of the posted work or school zone speed limit is now a Class A misdemeanor.
Another new law requires officers to tow vehicles of anyone convicted of driving without insurance within the prior 12 months who are receiving another citation for driving without insurance.
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