Illinois State Troopers found a clever way to disguise themselves from speeding drivers who scan the roadsides for patrol cars.
The troopers aimed their radar guns from trucks owned by Walsh Construction rather than patrol cars, and they were decked out like construction workers, hard hats and all. This stealthy speed trap that took place in April was put in place for a good reason — promoting safety for those who work on the side of the road.
Appropriately, this collaboration between the state patrol, Walsh’s road workers, and the Illinois Department of Transportation was dubbed Operation Hard Hat.
“We’re here to help each other out,” Master Sgt. Ron Salier told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of the officers’ connection with road workers. “We are enforcing the law but also educating the motoring public.”
Like the construction workers who take care of our roads, state troopers spend many of their working hours on highway shoulders. The Post-Dispatch reported that 34 Illinois State Police squad cars have been hit in 2019. It’s a dangerous place to spend your shift.
Operation Hard Hat was in effect during Work-Zone Safety Week to raise awareness about reducing speed in construction zones. It was also meant to remind drivers of Scott’s Law — Illinois’ “Move Over” law that requires drivers to slow down and, if possible, to move to the far lane when passing police and emergency vehicles pulled over on the road.
More than 1,500 roadside construction workers in the United States lost their lives on the job between 2003 and 2015, and Illinois ranked fourth in worker deaths during that time period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
If that statistic alone doesn’t slow you down, know this: Speeding in a work zone will cost you. Every state except Wyoming has an “enhanced” penalty for traffic violations that occur in work zones, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. If you’re caught speeding in a construction zone in Illinois, a court appearance is mandatory, and the minimum fine on first offense is $375. The fine for the second offense is $1,000.
The Illinois State Police hope Operation Hard Hat will reach drivers not because they are scared of an expensive ticket, but rather from “reminding drivers [of] the human element that they are actually driving through,” Wilson told Quad Cities TV station WQAD8. “This is a work zone. Imagine if you were at your office and somebody drove through at 80 miles an hour.”
The station shared this video that shows the troopers undercover, and really, there’s no way you’d spot one. He could easily be surveying something instead of nabbing a speeder:
Wondering if it’s legal for police to disguise themselves like this? One officer explained how there’s plenty of precedent for their road worker duds.
“It’s just like an undercover guy that would go in and buy drugs or something along those lines,” Trooper Jason Wilson, a safety education officer with the state police, told the Rock Island Dispatch-Argus. “There’s plenty of case law that shows there’s no actual restriction on what we actually need to [wear] for enforcement. No matter what we’re wearing, we’re still sworn police officers.”