EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In the past 10 months, there have been three officer-related car crashes in East Peoria, and the police department is reminding drivers to mind Scott’s Law.
In Illinois, Scott’s Law requires drivers to move over and slow down when approaching a vehicle on the side of the road.
“You have to pay attention and move over. Whether it’s a tow truck, a police car, an ambulance, a fire truck or Joe citizen, slow down and move over,” said East Peoria Deputy Police Chief David Horn.
On Friday night, an East Peoria police car was T-boned while assisting Illinois State Police with a deadly motorcycle crash near McCluggage Bridge. The officers were providing traffic control while ISP managed the crash itself.
According to the corresponding police report, the driver, 53-year-old Brandes Morris, was not paying attention to the road. He also admitted to alcohol before the crash.
Morris hit the police car so hard that it flipped over. Luckily, the officer in the car jumped out in time and no officer was injured.
“The officers had to jump to safety and miraculously were unharmed,” said Horn.
Horn, who has been in law enforcement for nearly 20 years, said he has never seen officer-related crashes until this past year. He said there is a ripple effect when police cars are damaged and have to be replaced or repaired. Squad cars can cost upwards of $60,000.
“When these vehicles are hit, it not only puts a burden on our police department, but it puts a burden on the city and taxpayers,” he said.
Tazewell County Deputy Sheriff John Shallenger said the side of the road is one of the most vulnerable places for an officer.
“You hear that squelching of the tires, or someone coming too close and just about hitting you, it’s very scary… All officers fear this. When we are most in danger is when we’re on the side of the road,” he said.
Horn pleads with drivers to move over and slow down so officers can get home safely.
“These officers – these men and women – are normal people just like you and me, that have families and loved ones. And if you don’t move over, it’s a chance to profoundly affect not only that officer if he survives, but his family too,” he said.
If moving over is not possible, Shallenger said it’s imperative to slow down.
“If you are coming up on an emergency vehicle and you cannot get over, what we want you to do is slow down,” he said.
Brandes was arrested and issued citations for driving under the influence (DUI), failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to an authorized emergency vehicle. He is due in court on August 31.