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Scott's Law - Know It?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Scott's Law - Know It?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
May 12, 2008


A recent email (one of those "broadcast" emails that have been forwarded and forwarded ad nauseum and are usually hoaxes) reminded me of Scott's Law in the Illinois motor vehicle code. It seems that the driver in the emailed story came upon a police car stopped on the shoulder of the roadway with its emergency lights flashing. The driver did not slow in time and was unable to move over, and he passed the police car (which was stopped on the shoulder with no other vehicle present). To his surprise and dismay (and expense), he was pulled over and ticketed for violating 625 ILCS 5/11-907(c).

You can read the Illinois State Police brochure at http://www.isp.state.il.us/docs/1-163.pdf and even print it out for a dinner table discussion with your family.

This 2007 law requires you to move over, if possible, or slow down (how much you need to slow down is not defined), in order to reduce the potential hazard to the emergency vehicle on the shoulder. Note that it doesn't have to be a police officer. It could be a highway service vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle, private tow truck or auto rescue vehicle, or any other vehicle authorized to use emergency lights.

What's tricky is when that vehicle is stopped on the shoulder (let's say a police vehicle) and the violator has already been released and has driven away. The police officer might remain parked on the shoulder of the roadway while he finishes his paperwork. Is this a legitimate use for emergency lights?

A wise course of action for the police officer on a busy roadway would be to move off the shoulder and drive to an exit or Rest Area, where he can park safely to finish his report. Obviously, this takes him away from his patrol work and reduces the time he has available to get the next violator. But, should he park on the shoulder, emergency lights flashing away, and use his patrol car for "bait" to catch a driver who can't move over due to heavy traffic and too late realizes that he must slow down?

It'll probably depend how good of a defensive attorney a driver can afford to get him off in a case like this.

This emailed story also included a story about a woman who pled guilty because she didn't know the law. She paid her $100 fine and went on her merry way, only to be surprised a few days later when her driver's license was suspended for 90 days by the Secretary of State. That part of the emailed story seems to be in error. If you are involved in an accident for failing to move over or slow down, then you are subject to losing your license for 90 days. The penalties are more severe for injury accidents and for accidents involving a fatality.

The new Rules of the Road are to include reference to Scott's Law.

© 2008 GUS PHILPOTT

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