August 22, 2006

Police step up traffic safety enforcement efforts

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- This week's start of classes at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the upcoming Labor Day weekend provide an opportunity for reminders about safe driving.

SIUC Department of Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler reminds motorists that the speed limit on campus is 20 mph.

In addition, officers are again urging motorists to drive safely with the start of school and the first long weekend of the fall semester as Labor Day approaches.

The department is using a federal safety grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation for another round of additional traffic enforcement. The enforcement period began Aug. 18 and runs through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4.

The program's emphasis is on enforcing DUI, speeding and safety belt laws.

In the previous enforcement campaign, conducted June 26-July 9, police arrested six motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol. There were three additional alcohol-related arrests, 23 tickets for speeding, five tickets for motorists driving with a suspended license, and 14 tickets for safety belt violations.

The University last 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 during eight enforcement periods between Oct. 1, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2006.

This is the final enforcement period for the current grant. The University has applied for a fifth year of funding, Sigler 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.