May 23, 2007

SIUC police step up drunken driving enforcement

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Department of Public Safety is conducting another round of traffic enforcement to crack down on drunken driving that also covers Memorial Day weekend.

A sixth round of enforcement activity began May 21 and extends through Sunday, June 3, Public Safety Director Todd D. Sigler said. The period covers about 45 hours of additional enforcement.

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

Funding comes from a federal safety grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation's Mini-Grant Alcohol Enforcement Program. The $19,357 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 336 hours of additional patrol time during eight enforcement periods between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007.

In an enforcement period that ran April 2-15, SIUC police conducted 45 hours of enforcement patrols. Police arrested seven people for driving under the influence of alcohol, and ticketed 18 motorists for speeding. There were three tickets for seat belt violations, two for driving with a suspended license, one zero tolerance violation, and one drug-related arrest.

Sigler notes the Memorial Day weekend is what many consider the beginning of summer, and he urges caution when driving, including in construction zones.

Sigler emphasizes that 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 involved in education through a number of DUI and alcohol-related programs, 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.

The department is seeking a sixth year of funding, which would begin in October. Sigler said he has noticed an increase in the number of designated drivers.

SIUC is one of approximately 200 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 for enforcement activities.