April 10, 2006

SIUC police step up drunken driving enforcement

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The warmer weather is bringing out more traffic – both motorized and pedestrian – and Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Public Safety is utilizing extra patrols to crack down on drunken driving.

SIUC police are conducting a fifth round of concentrated traffic enforcement through Saturday, April 15. The department is using a federal safety grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation for the program. The University last fall received a $16,118 grant through the transportation department's Mini-Alcohol Enforcement Program, or MAP grant – the fourth year SIUC has received funding.

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.

Off-duty officers are working 40 hours during this enforcement period, SIUC Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler said. The program's emphasis is on enforcing DUI, speeding and safety belt laws.

In the previous enforcement campaign, conducted March 12 through March 26, police arrested eight motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol. There were also two additional alcohol-related arrests, five safety belt violations, and 24 tickets for speeding.

"What is particularly disturbing to me is the number of DUI's," Sigler said. "I have to say I was correct in believing the warmer weather would bring out the motoring public – the number of DUI arrests suggests to me that people need to be more diligent in finding alternate transportation and designated drivers."

He added that spring brings prom and many other school-related activities, including graduations, and that all motorists need to be cognizant of that.

Spring also means more road repair and construction. Motorists need to be aware of speed limits and construction zones on city streets and county roads, he said.

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. Western Illinois University in Macomb also received funding.