Learning Scott's Law the Easy Way or the Hard Way.

scottDriving down Half Day Road in Lincolnshire last spring. One friend in the passenger seat next to me, another in the back row. We're chatting about baseball, and house closings, and prostate biopsies. I'm in the right lane, anticipating the ramp to the Tri-State a mile ahead.

There is an Illinois State Patrol car on the shoulder, immobile, no activity around it. I check my speedometer to make sure I am not too much above the speed limit, but other than that I don't give the trooper much thought as I glide past the cruiser.  And that is where I am making my mistake.

A lightbar begins flashing its red and blue lights behind me. A siren sounds and a glance in the rearview mirror confirms the police are on my tail. I quickly pull over, put the car into park and confused as to what my wrongdoing has been, await the approach of the state patrol officer.

Trooper: License and insurance, please. And what model year is this car.
Me: Here they are sir. It's a 2017. (I still don't know the reason or importance of that question.)
Trooper: Is this still your address? Had any traffic citations in the last 5 years?
Me: Yes I live there, and no, no traffic issues.
Trooper: Do you know why I stopped you?
Me: No sir. I really didn't think I did anything wrong.
Trooper: I'll let you know in a minute.

He walks to his patrol car to verify my driver's license and car plates. One of my friends, an attorney, thinks he knows what this is about. He tells me I could be in for a big fine, but before he can give me more details the officer returns.

Trooper: Did you seem me on the shoulder?
Me: Yes, sir.
Trooper: And what did you do?
Me: Um, nothing, sir.
Trooper: There's a law in Illinois. Scott's Law. You see an officer on the side of the road, you do three things. You assess for any hazards. You slow down. You move to the left lane if you can. You didn't do any of those. That's a $10,000 fine.
Me: I really didn't know...

He lets me off with a warning, a stern one. Maybe he is influenced by the mild spring day, by my past good driving record, by my lack of aggressiveness. Maybe he just wanted to make a point. His lesson is well taught and well learned.

But two Illinois troopers have been killed this year when they have been struck by vehicles while conducting traffic stops. More than a dozen others have been injured in similar incidents since January. By people who didn't know or didn't follow Scott's Law. That is two deaths and more than a dozen other incidents too many.

I usually write about prostate cancer and PSA testing when I want to save lives. Scott's Law is another way to keep people safe. I had to go through a traffic stop to learn it; I hope the rest of you can learn the lesson by just reading about it. No more officers need to die.

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