Remembering Lt. Scott Gillen, the name behind Scott’s Law

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CHICAGO (WREX)- We often rattle off the name “Scott’s Law” when talking about the move over law in Illinois and don’t think much of it.

But, the name Scott has a meaning and a story to it. Although Scott isn’t here to tell it, his brother Don can.

That story begins 18 years ago, 100 miles from Rockford, on a day Don Gillen will never forget.

If you drive on the Bishop Ford Freeway near 115th Street, the memorial is no longer there.

“It had everything, an axe, the nozzle, yeah,” said Don Gillen, pointing to a photo of a cross that he made that was planted near the 115th St. exit on Chicago’s south side.

“He was my little brother,” Gillen added with a smirk and a laugh. “He was a good fireman.”

The memories Don Gillen has of his brother, Lt. Scott Gillen, are still strong 18 years later. They were cut short on December 23, 200 at that spot on the Chicago freeway. Lt. Scott Gillen, a Chicago firefighter, was working what Don calls a “regular” crash scene, he would know, he was a firefighter at the time but has since retired.

“He cut through,” Don says waving his hands. “They had it blocked off like they were supposed to. They had the cars staggered, the had the flares, the firetruck was posted out and everything.”

That’s when Carlando J. Hurt hit Lt. Gillen.

:He wanted to get home and get through all that stuff,” Gillen added, remembering that early morning. “He hit my brother. Tore him in half is what he did, he tore him in half.”

“I never seen so much blood,” he added. “They had to throw blankets all over the floor to keep sopping up so much blood. I don’t even know how many times he died on the table.”

The day after the crash, then Fire Commissioner James Joyce warned drivers to move over and let first responders do their jobs.

“The police on the street are at risk investigating accidents,” Joyce said in 2000. “The firemen are at risk. We are at risk when we drive to fires. People do not respect the warning lights.. This is very hard for the department to handle.”

But, Don wanted more than a warning.

He wanted to change the law.

After meeting with then Lt. Governor Corinne Wood and creating a petition with 60,000 signatures, Scott’s Law passed in Illinois in 2002.

“I had to go down state and it passed instantly,” he said.

Scott’s Law was created in Illinois and at least a dozen other states and towns that called Don directly.

“I don’t know what they call it, but it’s pretty much the same law I would imagine,” he said. “This isn’t happening just in Chicago. This is happening everywhere.”

While drivers continue to violate Scott’s Law on the very highway where Lt. Gillen died, Don does believe drivers are catching on and moving over.

“I do see cars moving over more now than 18 years ago,” he added. “`18 years ago nobody pulled over.”

However, with troopers dying and other first responders still getting hit on Illinois roadways, Gillen wants to remind drivers to move over, slow down and obey Scott’s Law.

“If you see someone on the side of the road on the expressway, get out of that lane and into a different lane,” he said. “You know? Slow down.”

Carlando J. Hurt, the man convicted of hitting and killing wasn’t supposed to be driving. Authorities say he received a driver’s license in Indiana after a glitch in the nationwide driving system. He went to prison for 13 years and has since been released.

Lt. Scott Gillen had five brothers, four of the siblings were firefighters, along with their father.

Lt. Scott Gillen was 37 years old.

James Stratton

James Stratton

Evening News Anchor

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