December 15, 2006

SIUC police to crack down on drunken driving

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Department of Public Safety is conducting a third round of concentrated traffic enforcement to crack down on drunken driving starting this weekend.

The enforcement period runs Sunday, Dec. 17, through Monday, Jan. 1. The enforcement coincides with the busy holiday travel season and New Year's Eve.

The program's emphasis is on enforcing DUI, speeding and safety belt laws, said Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler. He notes the holiday period is associated with late-night parties and New Year's Eve celebrations. People need to remember to drink responsibly, and use a designated driver or contact someone for a ride, if necessary.

"We encourage people to find designated drivers or services that are being offered for free as opposed to a ride with the local law enforcement," he said.

In an enforcement period that ran Nov. 25, and from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, SIUC police arrested four people for driving under the influence of alcohol, and ticketed 13 motorists for speeding, four for other alcohol-related offenses, and one person for a seat belt violation.

Sigler noted that according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the state is on the verge of having the fewest yearly fatalities since 1924. As of Dec. 14, there were 1,196 fatalities, compared to 1,304 for the same time period in 2005.

Sigler emphasizes that enforcement is one aspect of trying 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.

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.

A $19,357 federal safety grant through the IDOT's Mini-Alcohol Enforcement Program, or MAP grant, allows SIUC to hire off-duty officers conduct traffic enforcement activities for a specific number of hours over a two-week period.

The award allows the department to pay for 336 hours of additional patrol time during eight enforcement periods between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007.