Local police focusing heavily on traffic safety

Students can expect a heavy focus by local police agencies on traffic violations for the first few weeks of school, no matter their preferred mode of transportation.

At the start of each semester, the University, Champaign and Urbana police officers put a heavy emphasis on traffic safety while on patrol. The departments are currently watching for behaviors by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians that pose a hazard to everyone’s safety.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Skip Frost, deputy chief of the University of Illinois Police Department. “People are getting injured and, unfortunately, killed.”

Frost said his department takes a holistic approach to traffic safety, and his staff wants to educate people who violate the law to achieve voluntary compliance from everyone on the roadways.

“What we would like to see is that everybody does abide by the rules of the road,” Frost said.

The local police departments recently created a new plan to educate bicyclists who violate city ordinances and the Illinois Vehicle Code, and Frost said his department has done well enforcing laws on motorists. Pedestrians, however, have not always received an education about violations.

Frost said that in his experience, pedestrians like to assert their right of way, but that they do not always do so lawfully or responsibly, noting that pedestrians and bicyclists are in more vulnerable positions than motorists in vehicles. He added that crossing the street at designated crosswalks does not guarantee the right of way.

UIPD Capt. Roy Acree said he has seen a similar problem and that he is surprised the campus hasn’t seen more injuries.

“I don’t know how we go through a day when either a pedestrian or bicyclist doesn’t get hit by a vehicle,” Acree said. “(Our officers) probably just cringe at some of the stupid stuff they see.”

Citations for traffic safety violations fall under the Illinois Vehicle Code and the local city ordinances, and the UIPD can write citations for violations in both Champaign and Urbana.

Bryant Seraphin, a lieutenant at the Urbana Police Department and a University alum, said traffic safety relies on everyone on the road working together and being alert.

“Whether that’s the drivers of the motor vehicles, whether that’s the bicyclists, whether that’s pedestrians, all of them need to be focused on what they’re doing and pay attention to what they’re doing,” he said.

Seraphin said his department tries to educate people who violate the law by providing them with brochures and pamphlets so they can learn about their mistakes. He also said that in the first month of school, his department puts an emphasis on issuing warnings, although tickets may be issued if the violation is more egregious.

“At the end of the day, we just want everyone to get home in one piece,” he said.

Frost said the high number of people competing for space on the road requires caution on everyone’s part.

“If everybody would just slow down, exercise a little bit of patience, a little bit of courtesy and obey the law, we would have much fewer conflicts,” he said.

The Champaign Police Department could not be reached for comment by presstime.

Sari can be reached at [email protected] and @Sari_Lesk.