With four trooper deaths so far this year, 2019 has been the deadliest year in the history of the Illinois State Police.
In addition, more Illinois State Police troopers have been injured on the job than in recent years. There have been 23 troopers struck and injured while handling on-duty incidents with emergency lights activated so far this year, according to statistics provided by the Illinois State Police. That number was 8 in all of 2018. In 2017, there were a total of 12 similar injury incidents. Including the number of crashes involving a trooper’s vehicle being struck without injury, the figures are even higher.
The last time there were more than two trooper deaths in a single year was 68 years ago, when three troopers died in the line of duty in 1951.
Last month, the shooting death of Trooper Nick Hopkins was the first death of an Illinois SWAT team member. Hopkins was only the third SWAT team member to have been shot in the more than 40-year history of the team.
With the increase in injuries and deaths, the Illinois State Police has ramped up their enforcement of Scott’s Law. From Jan. 1, 2018, through Sept. 9, 2018, the Illinois State Police issued a total of 624 tickets for violations of the state’s Move Over law, which also is known as Scott’s Law. During the same time period this year, the Illinois State Police issued 5,486 Scott’s Law violations.
State Police Public Information Officer Delila Garcia said the Illinois State Police has put together a task force to study the impact of the increased Scott’s Law citations and public awareness campaigns. The agency also is working to determine if compliance with the law increase with awareness.
Lawmakers enacted Scott’s Law in 2002. The law requires drivers approaching stopped emergency vehicles to slow down and move over, changing lanes if possible. In 2017, the law was updated to include any stationary vehicle with lights flashing. That includes tow trucks, IDOT vehicles, or any other type of stopped vehicle on the side of the roadway.
Scott’s Law fines begin at $250 for the first violation and $750 for a second.
Garcia said that throughout the year, state police troopers have shared camaraderie with each other through events. Fundraising dinners, 5K events and T-shirt sales to benefit the families of fallen officers. Garcia said troopers also have seen support from Illinois residents through donations to the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation, along with other community fundraisers.