ROCKFORD (WREX) – Twenty-two troopers were hit by drivers violating Scott’s Law so far this year. Two of them, Troopers Brooke Jones-Story and Christopher Lambert, died.
That’s not lost on those who lived through their crash. The nine men and women you’re about to hear from aren’t just troopers, they’re survivors. For the first time, many of them are sharing their story in hopes you’ll take Scott’s Law to heart.
“I had flares behind my squad car, about 100 feet back. And I was like, I can’t believe this guy didn’t move over,” said Trooper Arturo Resendez from District 5.
Trooper Resendez is one of the nearly two-dozen troopers who nearly lost their life, not chasing criminals or dodging bullets, but simply by being parked on the side of the highway. Nearly every day, the troopers say someone violates Scott’s Law and almost hits them.
“I would say it’s almost every stop, almost every traffic stop,” said Trooper Kyle Blakemore from the Chicago district.
This year, those close calls turned into harsh realities.
“I’m shocked that I walked away from it,” said Trooper Jose Vallejo from District 5, who showed us his mangled squad car.
“I just had whiplash so I consider myself very lucky,” said Trooper Lucas Sniady
“When I got spun around, the lady that caused my accident actually hit me again so I got hit twice,” said Trooper Joseph Garcia with District 15. “When I came to my senses, my squad car was basically turned 90 degrees facing the wrong way.”
It was the first time any of the northern Illinois troopers had been hit on the job. And it’s happened to state troopers all across Illinois.
“I tried to put it in drive to get away but it was too late,” said Trooper Derek Cullen of District 11.
The driver told Trooper Cullen she never saw him despite his flashing lights. He was the first trooper this year hit in a Scott’s Law violation
“Sixteen of us getting hit is too many, and that’s a lot. That’s a lot more that we’ve had since I can remember,” said Cullen.
And that was just the number of troopers hit in January and February. The next month it would climb even higher.
“It was March 3, 2019, a day I will never forget,” said Trooper Butch Pool, District 18. “The car was going too fast. Unfortunately a lot of damage was done, innocent lives were put at risk.”
Speed is a common theme in all the crashes.
“We noticed a truck tractor traveling way too fast for conditions in the left lane,” said Trooper Breann Imig, District 8.
Imig said recognizing that in time saved her life.
“If I wasn’t able to see the crash coming and not get back into my squad car, there’s without a doubt I would not be here today,” she said.
All of the troopers hit that we spoke to were in their squad cars at the time. They told us had they been outside of their cars when their crashes happened, they wouldn’t have survived.
“When I got hit I was literally about a minute before I was behind my vehicle placing flares,” said Trooper Resendez. “The timing of me placing flares, coming back to my car and then getting hit, I was like, one minute before that could have been me getting ran over.”
And in most of these cases the troopers weren’t on the side of the highway because they were pulling someone over or giving someone a ticket. They were helping a stranded driver.
“Did we sign up to be in fear every traffic stop? No. but we signed up to help people,” said Trooper Garcia.
Now the troopers are asking for your help and they say it’s not asking much.
“I think the most important thing is people need to pay attention,” said Trooper Cullen.
“It’s something so easy to take the less than a millisecond, ‘oh I got to move over’ ,” said Trooper Garcia.
But the reality, they said, is many still won’t.
“It’s just a matter of time. I don’t think my one crash is gonna be it for me. Unfortunately,” said Trooper Imig.
All of the troopers believe they will get hit again sometime in their career. They just hope they’re lucky enough to survive it again when that time comes.