May 18, 2006

SIU Police begin traffic safety stops May 22

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Memorial Day holiday period is a time to be with family and friends. Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Public Safety also wants to help ensure that it is safe.

SIUC police are conducting a sixth round of concentrated traffic enforcement from Monday, May 22 through Sunday, June 4. 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 pay officers who normally would be off duty to conduct traffic enforcement activities for a specific number of hours over a two-week period. The money allows the department to pay for 336 hours of additional patrol 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.

In the previous enforcement campaign, conducted April 6-15, police arrested five motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol. There were also two additional alcohol-related arrests, 12 tickets for speeding, two arrests for driving on a suspended license, and one arrest on an outstanding warrant.

SIUC is requesting program funding for next year, SIUC Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler said.

Since the program began at SIUC police have issued 117 tickets for driving under the influence of alcohol, made 42 arrests for alcohol-related offenses, made 35 arrests for driving while license suspended, and issued seven tickets for zero tolerance violations. In addition, officers issued 221 tickets for speeding and made 17 arrests for outstanding warrants, Sigler said.

Data shows the high-risk age group for both traffic and alcohol-related crashes is people between 18 to 25 years old — a majority of the population in and around the campus, Sigler said.

Sigler also emphasizes that students are not always those violating the law. Non-student motorists in Carbondale who violate the law could result in students being victims, he said.

"We feel this is an issue that is squarely in our back yard and it is an issue we want to keep in front of our students' attention. We don't want a situation where one more student is injured or killed as a result of alcohol-related speed or driving," 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 at 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.