Illinois State Police will be participating in a 24-hour semitrailer safety check in memory of Trooper James Sauter, who was struck and killed in his squad car near Chicago by a semitrailer driver who had fallen asleep.
The safety checks, which will begin at midnight Tuesday and continue for 24 hours, has been deemed “Operations Sauter 2017.” Troopers statewide will make contact with semitrailer drivers and ensure everything is in order to promote road safety.
Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said Trooper Kyle Deatherage, a Troy native, died only months before Sauter when he was struck by a semitrailer while conducting a traffic stop on his motorcycle on Interstate 55 near Litchfield.
“Any time an officer is killed in the line of duty ... it really hits home,” he said. “But (Deatherage’s death) really hit home because several of our troopers out of District 11 knew him since before high school.”
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He said traffic safety is a bigger concern to law enforcement officers than people realize — this day of safety checks is a way to honor those killed as well as create driver awareness when it comes to emergency vehicles.
“One of our biggest fears is traffic,” Dye said. “When you are going through training you ride with another officer for several months — when they evaluate you each week, once you start making traffic stops, one of the biggest things they check is if are you watching traffic while you’re at the car.”
Dye said Illinois’ Scott’s Law mandates drivers must reduce speed, change lanes when possible and proceed with caution when any emergency vehicle is stopped along a roadway.
He noted that many drivers cited for breaking this law did not know it was a law to begin with, although Dye said he sees it as plain common sense.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, about 41 percent of law enforcement deaths in the last nine years were traffic-related.
Dye said this is the second year the agency has conducted the 24-hour safety check period in honor of the fallen officers.
“Most people don’t know how many officers get hit — but we do because we have to go to their funerals,” he said.