COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — An Illinois state trooper’s Facebook post is going viral but she’s hoping it has as big an impact on distracted drivers and saves lives. The post was seen by well over 200,000 people in 14 hours.
Sgt. Tracy Lillard is in charge of social media for the Illinois State Police. She operates two web pages: the state’s and her own Trooper Tracy page. She’s concerned about so many drivers who fail to move over when emergency responders are on the side of the road.
"We’ve had 26 troopers hit and it’s only November. We have two more months, including winter months. It's terrifying,” she said.
She’s posted a strong and personal reminder on both Facebook pages that drivers are supposed to pull over if an emergency vehicle is parked on the road if they can’t then slow down.
“We’re within feet, sometimes inches, of a passing motorist,” said Master Sgt. Bruck Waggoner, who works for the Illinois State Police in Effingham.
Sgt. Lillard said two more troopers were struck this week. Fortunately, neither trooper was seriously injured. Emergency responders can be quickly injured or killed by distracted drivers.
"I think they’re just becoming selfish behind the wheel,” Lillard said.
Two troopers have been killed so far this year because drivers did not move over. Tracy’s latest post speaks from her heart. Not only is she a trooper but so is her husband. They have three daughters. After Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was struck and killed by a huge truck earlier this year, Tracy’s daughter had some painful questions.
“'What happens if you get hit too?' I said, 'You’ll have dad.' And she said, 'What happens if he gets hit too?' It’s hard to hear a 10-year-old plead with you," Lillard said.
She said many replies to her post have been supportive. Others have been hateful, complaining that troopers should get out of the way and stop writing so many tickets.
Troopers mean business. Last year by this time, just over 700 hundred move-over violators were ticketed. More than 5,800 tickets have been issued so far this year.
The Facebook post on the Illinois State Police Department's Facebook page has generated thousands of likes and comments.
You can read her full commentary below:
"I’d like to write to you as Tracy. Just Tracy.
Not Trooper Tracy, not Mama Bear, just Tracy. I’m going to write this as a wife of a police officer. It’s part of who I am.
For all of you ladies and gentlemen that are married to a police officer you probably know how I feel right now. Our department just had the 25th and 26th Trooper hit today. This year we have had 26 Troopers struck by motorists that didn’t move over or slow down for them. We have lost four Troopers this year, two of which were a direct result of drivers not moving over. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m almost at a loss for words and that doesn’t happen often.
I’m asking you to think long and hard about something. It’s so simple. It’s so easy. It’s something you do probably every day but don’t think anything about it. Driving. Looking for stranded motorists or emergency vehicles on the shoulder and then moving over for them. Moving over and slowing down is everything to us. It’s what we think about daily. You all moving over. You all seeing us and adjusting your driving speed and positioning to us accordingly.
I have tried my best for the last few years to explain the law. I have tried my best to have you understand that we are human beings, just like you. We just happen to work alongside the roadway.
I know there are so many wives out there in our department that cringe just like I do when I see these messages of another Trooper hit. It’s a sinking feeling. Unimaginable.
And then to read comments like “You shouldn’t write tickets then on the side of the road.” and “Stop generating revenue and you wouldn’t be in this position.” and “Find a better spot to stop.” and “Don’t sit on the shoulder then.”
I. Cant. Even.
We handle crashes. We stop to help motorists. We write tickets. We alert drivers of a closed interstate up ahead. We change tires. We provide first aid. We give directions. We wait with drivers that run out of fuel. We don’t sit out there and have lunch and play cards. We don’t hang out on the shoulder for fun. We don’t do it on purpose. We can’t just drive on by. We can’t just say to dispatch, ‘oh, that’s too bad, we can’t help cause it’s a bad spot. Looks like a bad crash. Hope they can scoot to the next exit.’ We are the police. We go. We do. We help.
Have I been hit at work? Yes. Has my husband been hit at work? Yes. Do we worry about being hit? Yes. Do we hear people making excuses why they can’t look at the road? Yes. Do we worry that distractions are making people less attentive behind the wheel? Yes.
Will we keep going to work? Yes. Will we keep writing tickets? Yes. Will we keep responding to crashes? Yes. Will we keep changing tires for motorists if we can? Yes. Will we stop with the people that are broke down and provide emergency lights behind them so they don’t get hit when they are waiting for a tow truck? Yes.
We will keep being the police.
I just wish people would wake up. It’s not happening just in Illinois. It’s nationwide. Open your eyes. Open your ears. Drive like YOUR life depends on it. Drive like my life depends on it. Drive like my husband’s life depends on it. Drive like our K9’s life depends on it.
Move over because that person you’re moving over for may be your sister that’s out of gas. It may be your uncle that has a flat tire. It may be your neighbor that was in a crash. It may be your son that hit a deer. The law includes EVERYONE that is on the shoulder with their hazards on or emergency lights on. It’s ALL of us. It’s all of YOU.
My message has always been the same, the shoulder of the road is our office. It’s his office. It’s my office. It’s my fellow police officer’s office. It’s where we do our work. Move over, slow down, and proceed with caution when you see a stopped vehicle on the side of the road. Please. I’m begging you.
Tracy, a Trooper’s wife."