Police program aims to curb speeding

Illinois reported a record low number of fatalities from car crashes in 2008 – the lowest in the 83 years for which statistics have been compiled.

The Speed Enforcement Program instituted by the Champaign Police Department has received grant funding for three years from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to curb speeding.

“Speeding is a contributor to about 40 percent of all crashes,” said Mike Stout, director of the Division of Traffic Safety with the IDOT. “The best result that we hope for is a decrease in fatal crashes. In Illinois last year, there were about 1,000 deaths from crashes on the highways … Nationwide that number was at about 40,000 deaths.”

The number of vehicles stopped for speeding by the Champaign Police Department for the month of May increased to 270 from 249 in 2008 and 206 in 2007.

The funding the police department received was used to hire additional officers for traffic enforcement that targeted speeders in four different locations in Champaign.

“They have to demonstrate that there is a problem in order to be eligible for a grant,” Stout said. “Champaign had to identify four areas of concern where problems occurred. The grants are then required to focus on those areas. In this case, hiring more speed enforcement officers.”

Champaign police sergeant Dave Griffet said that the grant funding has helped immensely in the areas where police resources were focused.

“Last year, we worked towards reducing the number of speeders on Bradley Avenue,” Griffet said. “And with the grant money, we were able to accomplish that. This year, one of our focuses is University Avenue which has seen a fair number of crashes.”

The grant, which the Champaign Police Department received in September 2008, provides funding for one year. The focus of the funding this year will be on University Avenue, from Mattis Avenue to Wright Street, Windsor Road, from Neil Street to Staley Road, Church Street from State Street to Mattis Avenue and Neil Street from Windsor to Interstate Drive.

“I think the Speed Enforcement Program has been pretty effective,” said Champaign mayor Gerald Schweighart. “There are still a lot of speeders, and they have been issuing a lot of tickets in the designated spots.”

As to why the number of citations has increased, Griffet said that it is due in part to the addition of two to three new officers who are paid for by the grant.

“Since the city is trying to cut certain expenditures out of its budget, this grant helps the city be more efficient with its money,” Griffet said. “The additional officers are funded entirely by the state grant instead of coming out of the city’s taxpayer’s pocket.”

Stout said that the grants provided by IDOT are given with the intentions of decreasing the amount of accidents in the state.

Griffet and the Champaign Police Department’s hope is that the Speed Enforcement Program will help in decreasing the number of fatal crashes per year as much as they can.

“We’re going to apply for a grant next year,” Griffet said. “But, it’s not realistic to stop everyone from speeding. We use the grant to only decrease the number of speeders who are on the streets of Champaign.”