October 17, 2006

Police step up drunken driving enforcement effort

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – For a fifth 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.

The first round of concentrated traffic enforcement began Monday, Oct. 16, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 29.

The University received a $19,357 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 allows the department to pay for additional patrol time during eight enforcement periods between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007.

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

Under the program last year, police made 47 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol. There were also 14 other alcohol-related offenses, such as illegal transportation, 18 arrests for driving while license suspended, five arrests for drug-related offenses, five arrests for zero-tolerance violations, and four arrests on outstanding warrants.

"It's a very effective enforcement tool," Sigler said.

Sigler wants to remind motorists that DUI, speed, and lack of safety belt usage are "significant factors" in automobile accident injuries.

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, 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.

A benefit associated with the program is that $100 from DUI fines goes back to the Department of Public Safety. The department uses the funds for equipment to further help DUI enforcement.

SIUC is one of approximately 200 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 for enforcement activities.

Statewide in 2005, impaired driving was a factor in 43 percent of fatalities, a two-percent decrease from 2004, Stout said. The national average is 40 percent, he said.

The SIUC Department of Public Safety is a "great partner," Stout said. "We are happy we can assist them as much as we do. They are good traffic safety partners."