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New Year, New Laws, New Risks

On January 1, The State of Illinois implemented a new law governing the use of lights and sirens by emergency vehicles. The Illinois assembly passed HB5632 which was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner last August.

The new law changes the requirement for continuous use of sirens and instead calls for First Responders to only use sirens and lamps when it is reasonably necessary to warn civilians while responding to an emergency or transporting a critical patient in need of immediate medical intervention. This law only applies to cities with populations over one million, meaning Chicago.

Other states and cities are reviewing the effectiveness of sirens and looking for a way to reduce the impact on surrounding communities. Specifically, New York City is reviewing the type of sound produced by sirens on first responder fleets to be more European and use a high-low tone that will seem less piercing to the public.

Illinois’ new siren laws were also followed with a push to enforce the law that mandates safe driving behavior in the presence of First Responders. In March, Illinois Governor, JB Pritzker, responded to the alarming number of state trooper deaths and injuries by announcing a new push to enforce Scott’s Law. Governor Pritzker said:

“This is not optional. And it shouldn’t be. Our state troopers are putting their lives on the line every day. They are our heroes, our first responders, keeping people safe,” Pritzker said. “No driver needs to get to their destination so quickly that they need to put a trooper’s life at risk. No one’s time or convenience is worth more than the lives of our state’s heroes.”

These new laws and siren policies along with the enforcement of existing laws show the ongoing attempts to solve growing safety risks by using existing methods and technology.

Digital Alerting (in-car alerts) can help in both scenarios. Scott’s Law punishes drivers when they make bad decisions and puts responders and other roadway workers at risk but does not warn drivers ahead of time. Digital Alerting is the preventive measure which has the potential to warn distracted motorists in advance and provide them additional time to make safe driving decisions. In fact, studies testing the usage of Advanced Warning Devices (AWDs), have shown that Digital Alerting reduces the chance of a collision by 60-90%.

Digital Alerting, unlike sirens and lights, is designed specifically to alert those on the road without the need for ever-increasing brightness and loudness of emergency vehicles. The use of Digital Alerting has the support of multiple State DOTs and Federal Safety Agencies. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also invested funding for research and development of the technology.

Safety technology is evolving and growing problems require new, innovative solutions. So far this year, 14 Illinois State Troopers have been struck by cars. At the time of writing this article, a second state trooper was killed in a roadside collision. We need to protect our vulnerable public servants any way we can.

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