COLLINSVILLE, Ill (WREX)- Trooper Brooke Jones-Story had a specialty with the Illinois State Police that few others across the state had. She was a Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement with the highest level of certification, level one.
It is a position that is now only held by one woman in the state, District 11 Trooper Pam Gureski.
When Trooper Jones-Story was killed, dozens asked 13 WREX why troopers inspect semis on the side of the road, and what is being done to protect them. We rode along with Trooper Gureski to see how safe she feels on the shoulder, and ask ISP Director Brendan Kelly what is being done to protect those who put their lives on the line.
Trooper Gureski still remembers hearing about the death of Trooper Jones-Story doing a job she does daily.
“That could have been me,” she said at a weigh station in District 11. “That goes through your head a lot. Once you’re on the side of the road, anything can happen.”
Now, months later, drivers are still not slowing down and moving over while she’s on the shoulder inspecting semis.
In one semi inspection on I-70, 33 vehicles violated Scott’s Law in just 16 minutes.
Trooper Gureski inspects about 600 semis each year, most are level two or three inspections on the shoulder.
She says she does have places she prefers to do them on the interstate.
“Some places [are] fairly safe,” she added. “No place is ever totally safe.”
That is how former Master Sgt. Robert Story feels about where his wife, Trooper Jones-Story, performed her final semi inspection.
“I know that’s where Brooke would target her stops,” he said. “That’s where the stop was made. There’s easily three lanes of traffic there.”
Some suggest the issue could be fixed by just finding an exit or a rest stop, but troopers say it’s not that easy.
“A lot of times we can’t take these 80,000 pound vehicles and take them on a side road that is only rated for 10 tons,” Trooper Gureski said.
“We’ve gotta kind of balance the safety aspect and where we can actually take these trucks,” she added.
For the level one, and most extensive inspection, Trooper Gureski does take trucks to the nearest rest area or weigh station.
“That’s my personal preference,” she said. “But, sometimes you have to do it.”
At the state level, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly says they’re looking at all options to protect troopers from getting hit.
“How long does it take the officer to be on the side of the road?” He said. “Can we reduce that turn around time because the longer they’re sitting there, the more likely something bad is to happen.”
But, policies are one thing, driver’s habits are another.
“We can improve our policies and make sure the troopers have as many options as possible,” Kelly said. “The bottom line is there are some days you’re going to wind up in a very difficult situation.”
In those difficult situations, troopers do have the discretion while on the side of the road. But, they still ask drivers to slow down and move over.
“That will save a lot of lives,” Trooper Gureski adds.
As for the crash that killed Trooper Brooke Jones-Story, she was finishing up her inspection of the semi on U.S. 20 when she was struck.
She was performing a level three inspection.
13 WREX has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act Requests to find out more details about the crash, those requests have been denied to this point.