THE ISSUE: Officer struck by vehicle while conducting traffic stop
OUR VIEW: Take this as a cautionary tale and drive safely
While it could have been worse, a Monday night incident serves as a good cautionary tale about the duty drivers owe to law enforcement personnel.
Around 9:45 p.m., Utica police officer Osvaldo Landeros was talking to the driver of a vehicle he’d stopped on U.S. 6, a half mile west of Route 178. While fulfilling his duty, a westbound Ford Taurus sideswiped Landeros.
Fortunately for all involved, the officer’s injuries were minor. Although La Salle County sheriff's deputies and Utica emergency personnel responded to the scene, Landeros refused treatment.
The sheriff’s office has the matter under investigation, so we’re not here to drop names or blame. But there is no dispute a car hit a police officer in the line of duty, and that’s something we consider preventable. It’s also the law of the land in Illinois —áspecifically the Move Over Law, which has been on the books since 2002.
The measure also is known as Scott’s Law, and is referred to as such on highway signs across the state. Lawmakers named the measure in memory of Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was struck and killed Dec. 23, 2000, by an intoxicated driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway while assisting at a crash scene.
What are your obligations under Scott’s Law?
To be compliant, drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing warning lights must change lanes, if safe to do so, or reduce speed and proceed with caution. As of 2017, the law also protects highway maintenance vehicles displaying oscillating, rotating or flashing lights, and we would be remiss to overlook the many road construction and maintenance workers who have died simply trying to do their jobs, the victims of preventable car crashes.
If you break the law, you’re looking at fines between $100 and $10,000. Property damage as a result of a violation earns a license suspension from 90 to 365 days, while drivers who injure someone while breaking Scott’s Law face a license suspension from 180 days to two years. If the crash results in death, the two-year suspension is mandatory.
Again, we’re glad officer Landeros wasn’t seriously hurt. We certainly hope the driver of the offending car learned a lesson, and we offer the story again as a cautionary tale: Be alert. Slow down. Move over. Save lives. And let people do their jobs safely.