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Backing on the Interstate

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Interstate Highway System

Backing on the Interstate

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
June 12, 2008

I think most drivers are aware of the rule against backing up on the Interstate. You know - like when you miss your exit and the next exit is 10 miles down the highway? Many have seen others do it and are aware of the very high risk in such backing. What about just backing on the shoulder? The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC) prohibits it.

But what about when police officers do it? Is it okay, just because the driver is wearing a uniform and driving a squad car?

I've seen it on the Tri-State when the Illinois State Police have been running radar. The worst situation I saw was when an ISP squad car was backing on the narrow inside shoulder next to the cement barrier, while cars whizzed by within inches of the side of his car.

Yesterday three ISP cars were enforcing the speed limit in southern Illinois north of Mt. Vernon. The radar unit was parked on a bridge where the driver/operator could check the speed of southbound vehicles. Two of the chase cars were on the shoulder waiting for "business", and the third, southern-most car had a violator stopped.

What got my attention was the middle squad car, an unmarked unit, which was backing up on the shoulder with its emergency lights activated. And the third (northern-most) unit had its emergency lights activated, although no violator was stopped in front of it. It appeared he was "clearing" the outside lane of traffic for the middle squad car that was backing. "Scott's Law" requires drivers to move over a lane or slow down when passing emergency vehicles on the shoulder with warning/emergency lights in use; but those lights must be in lawful use.

I heartily approve of radar speed enforcement and the "creative" use of a radar unit on a bridge, where speeders would likely not notice it.

However, I believe it is critical that traffic officers obey traffic laws while they are enforcing them. Two of the squad cars seemed to be using their emergency lights other than as authorized, and the middle car should not have been backing on the shoulder.

I realize he was most likely backing up so that he could return to his staging position for the next speeder. The radar unit officer must keep the violator in sight until the officer in the chase car has him in sight.

It would be interesting to learn the opinion of these officers about my suspicion that two of them were in violation of the IVC.


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