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Error in Ill. Rules of the Road

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Error in Ill. Rules of the Road

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
August 21, 2008

Most drivers will rely on information printed in the Illinois Rules of the Road for their knowledge and understanding of Illinois traffic laws. Thanks to a reader's comment yesterday to my article about drivers who stop unnecessarily when meeting oncoming emergency vehicles, I re-read the new (2008) Rules of the Road and found that an error exists in this edition that was not present in previous editions.

Many drivers stop, even in the roadway, when meeting oncoming emergency vehicles for which the roadway for the emergency vehicle is completely clear of traffic. This occurs often in the Woodstock area on Lake Avenue, between IL 47 and US 14, and on US 14 between Culver's and Centegra Hospital - Woodstock, formerly known as Memorial Medical Center.

On Page 27 of the 2008 Rules of the Road it reads in part, "When being approached by an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals, Illinois law requires motorists to immediately pull to the right side of the road and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass." NOTE: an important phrase in the law itself has been omitted from the Rules of the Road.

The Rules of the Road is not the state law. It is a "guide" and includes the caveat that it is "condensed and paraphrased." Perhaps now Jesse White's office should add to the list that it may be "incomplete" and "wrong".

The Illinois Vehicle Code [625 ILCS 5/11-907], as it exists online this morning, reads:

"Operation of vehicles and streetcars on approach of authorized emergency vehicles. (a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of this Code or a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible or visual signal, (1) the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right‑hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection and shall, if necessary (emphasis added) to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer ..."

Key words here are "...shall, if necessary to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, stop..."

If it is not necessary to stop to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, then you don't have to stop. Pull to the right-hand side of the road, slow down and keep moving, unless you need to stop to permit the emergency vehicle to pass safely.

Certainly, you don't want it to be "close". Emergency vehicle operators need a lot of room to miss drivers who pull out in front of them, stop on the left side or middle of the road, are inattentive, etc. But if an ambulance appears to be heading to the hospital and is fully in its otherwise empty lane, then all you are required to do is pull near the right-hand edge of the highway.

You may have to argue it in court, if you are ticketed for failing to stop. Be very observant to other traffic, so that you can testify clearly before the judge. It won't do much good to keep a copy of the 2008 Rules of the Road in your car to show the officer, because the newest edition is incorrect.


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