Saturday, July 1, 2006

By Art Golab
Special to the Daily SouthtownState police got a lot busier on Chicago-area roadways in 2005, issuing nearly 8,000 more speeding tickets than the previous year an increase of 25 percent.

Even so, more drivers are putting the pedal to the metal, according to an analysis of state police speeding data.

The numbers show an increase of 600 percent for tickets issued to speeders going more than 45 mph over the limit. Such citations climbed from 80 in 2004 to 561 last year.

And tickets charging drivers with going between 40 and 46 mph over the limit also increased significantly, by 344 percent.

While tickets in those high-speed ranges made up only about 3 percent of the nearly 40,000 speeding citations issued in the area, that still translates into a lot more cars going 100 mph or faster on interstate roadways. Research shows vehicles going that fast are up to 10 times more likely to be involved in crashes than cars traveling with the flow of traffic.

The fastest speeder nabbed in 2005 was charged with going 145 mph on Interstate 57.

Tollways accounted for more than half of the busted triple digit speeders in the Chicago area.

The 25 percent increase in local speeding tickets and a 13 percent jump statewide occurred without a significant increase in manpower. Officials say they've gotten better at identifying and paying attention to problem stretches of road.

"Instead of assigning officers to patrols without any specific purpose, we target problem areas to get more bang for the buck," said Lt. Jeff Hedrich, commander of District 3 in the southwest suburbs.

Technology may also be a factor in boosting police productivity. In 2005, use of laser guns (LIDAR) by state police became widespread. The handheld devices make it extremely easy to pick out individual speeders from the crowd.

The LIDAR also frees officers from their cars, allowing them to stand on or under overpasses and radio descriptions of speeders to colleagues. Troopers even dress in hard hats, orange vests and construction clothes to pick off speeders in work zones.

While triple-digit speeders are increasing, the number of tickets written on the slower end of the speed spectrum held steady from year to year.

In fact, drivers going 10 mph or less over the limit are the least likely to get stopped, and tickets in that range accounted for only 1.4 percent of all tickets written in 2004 and 2005.

Still, you can be cited for going even one mile per hour over the limit.

Four vehicles in the Chicago area got busted for that very offense. The slowest was a car doing 36 in a 35 mph zone on a municipal road in Cook County.

Chicago Sun-Times