A recent article by the Chicago Tribune has reported that a police officer was injured in a car crash in downtown Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. His squad car and another car collided in the Loop in the evening at Lake Shore Drive and Monroe Street, according to a spokesperson for the Chicago police. The officer needed treatment at nearby Northwestern, but fortunately the injuries were not life-threatening. Occupants of the other car refused medical treatment, according to the fire department.
While this article does not make it clear whether either party was negligent or whether either party was at fault or shared the blame, collisions involving police and other first responders are common, often due to the nature in which they travel . Oftentimes they must travel at high speeds to respond to urgent calls, so motorists should be watchful and understand how to operate when sharing the road with police and other first responders. This includes yielding to them and pulling over. Not only does this keep our emergency responders safe, but it is the law to do so too. Keeping them safe and free from harm keeps them on the roads and in the neighborhoods keeping members of our community safe as well.
In Illinois it is the law to yield to emergency vehicles, per Public Act 93-0173. Under Section 5, 625 ILC 5/11-907, the law states that “(a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making the use of audible and visual signals….(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…” By adhering to these laws when in the presence of emergency vehicles, our roads are kept safer, and officers can go about their duty and responding to emergencies.
A study reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2011 lays out characteristics of law enforcement officers’ fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Up until the mid 1990’s, officers were more commonly killed in the line of duty from violent means than in motor vehicle accidents. However, recent trends have shown that motor vehicle crashes are now the major cause of police officer fatalities. The crashes, like in the instance discussed above, occur most often during dark hours between 8 p.m. to 4:59 a.m. From the 1980’s, there was a steady rise in the number of law enforcement officers killed in motor vehicle crashes. In the 1980’s there was an average of 44 officers killed per year, and in the 1990’s there were an average of 45 officers killed per year in motor vehicle accidents. However, in the 2000’s this number jumped to 62 per year. From 1980 through 2008, there were approximately 20 – 29 law enforcement office fatalities from motor vehicle accidents in Illinois every year.
Whether in the vicinity of an emergency vehicle or not, our attorneys encourage all drivers to maintain heightened vigilance on the roads at all times so as to not create dangers for yourselves and others. When an emergency vehicle appears though, remember to follow the law to keep you and others safe.