December 16, 2005

SIUC police to focus on drunken driving

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For a fourth consecutive year, Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Public Safety is using a federal safety grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation to crack down on drunken driving.

SIUC police will conduct a third round of concentrated traffic enforcement from Monday, Dec. 19 through Jan. 1.

The University this fall received a $16,118 grant through the transportation department's Mini- Alcohol Enforcement Program, or MAP grant.

The grant allows SIUC to hire off-duty officers to conduct traffic enforcement activities for a specific number of hours over a two-week period. The award is allowing the department to pay for 336 hours of additional patrol time during eight enforcement periods between Oct. 1, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2006.

The program's emphasis is on enforcing DUI, speeding and safety belt laws, said Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler.

During SIUC's first three years in the program, police made 77 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol. Of the 33 DUI arrests made last year, the motorists' average blood alcohol concentration was .138. Illinois law defines a motorist as intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration is a minimum of .08.

There were other violations last year including 15 tickets for illegal transportation of alcohol, 10 for motorists driving with suspended licenses, 46 seat belt violations and 85 for speeding.

In the two traffic enforcement periods conducted so far this year, there were 14 DUI arrests, 18 alcohol-related citations for offenses including zero tolerance and illegal transportation, four for driving on suspended licenses, and 44 speeding tickets.

Sigler emphasized that enforcement is one aspect in working to reduce the number of alcohol- and speed-related offenses but it is not the entire answer. The department is also involved in education through a number of DUI and alcohol-related programs.

Promoting campus safety is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019. Also consistent with Southern@150, DPS pursues new sources of external grant funding as well as educating students about high-risk behaviors that would compromise their safety.

An additional component of the program is that $100 from DUI fines goes back to the Department of Public Safety. The department used the funds to buy cameras for each of five squad cars and to replenish traffic citation books. The department is in the process of upgrading to digital cameras in each of the squad cars.

SIUC is one of approximately 29 police agencies — and only two universities — in the state to receive the MAP federal safety funds this year, said Mike Stout, director of IDOT's Division of Traffic Safety. Western Illinois University in Macomb also received funding.

Stout emphasizes the extra enforcement efforts do not disrupt or lessen regular police patrols.

SIUC is a "very good" partner, he said. "We look forward to working with them again this year and in the future."