August 20, 2007

SIUC police to step up traffic enforcement

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois Carbondale Department of Public Safety will conduct another round of traffic enforcement to crack down on drunken driving and promote traffic safety.

The department will be implement an additional 40 hours of enforcement activity between Monday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 9. The two-week period is the eighth round of traffic enforcement funded by 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.

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

SIUC's enforcement campaign coincides with a "You Drink & Drive, You Lose," effort that involves Illinois State Police, the Illinois Secretary of State Police, and hundreds of local police and sheriff's departments across the state conducting roadside safety checks. That campaign begins today and runs through Labor Day.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 580 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2005 — 43 percent of all crashes in the state that year.

In an enforcement period that ran June 25 to July 8, SIUC police made seven arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, along with three additional alcohol-related arrests. They wrote 13 speeding tickets and eight safety belt violations, made one drug arrest and arrested one person for driving on a suspended license.

For the program's current fiscal year, there have been 44 DUI arrests and 11 other alcohol-related arrests, 96 speeding tickets, 28 safety belt violations, seven drug arrests, and five warrant arrests. There have been 18 arrests for driving on a suspended license and two arrests for violating the state's zero-tolerance law.

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 help with 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. Western Illinois University in Macomb also received funding for enforcement activities.