Cops monitoring Randall drivers
• 13 departments: Authorities hoping to cut fatal crashes
By Janelle Walker
ELGIN — Drivers beware: Seasonal road construction won't be the only thing slowing you down on Randall Road this summer.
Officers from jurisdictions up and down the busy thoroughfare will be paying extra attention to the north-south highway. The coordinated attempt is aimed at reducing the number of fatal crashes and other accidents that have been plaguing Randall.
Operation Safe Stretch includes every agency that has jurisdiction over parts of Randall from North Aurora to Crystal Lake, said Elgin police public information Officer Tamara Welter.
The 13 police agencies will be working together to conduct heavy saturation patrols along Randall.
The agencies include police departments in Algonquin, Batavia, Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Geneva, Lake in the Hills, North Aurora, Sleepy Hollow, South Elgin and St. Charles Police, as well as the Illinois State Police and Kane County Sheriff's Office.
In Elgin, much of the extra patrol will be handed by the department's unit for special assignment.
The unit, formerly known as Elgin's fourth-watch officers, patrol on the 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and work on solving problems in the community, rather than simply responding to calls.
Randall Road has several problem intersections in Elgin, said Lt. Bill Wolf, including its intersections with Illinois 72, Big Timber Road and at the U.S. 20 ramps.
Elgin has had three fatal accidents on Randall Road in the past six months, said traffic Sgt. Tom Olson. Two of those were within one month of each other.
Olson said almost all accidents can be blamed on three things: Turning, speeding and failure to yield.
Stepped-up patrols go a long way toward solving those motorist errors, Wolf said.
Several national studies show that there is a direct relationship between increased enforcement and decreased accidents, Wolf said.
While that may be because once motorists see police officers, they drive better, he also hopes it makes them think more about how they are driving.
New approach to effort
The multijurisdictional approach to patrolling Randall Road is new, Wolf said.
While Elgin police may work with Kane County or the highway patrol on safety checks, he doesn't remember seeing so many departments making a concerted effort to improve safety on one roadway.
In Elgin, the department plans to emphasize patrols during rush hours and on specific days. Other departments likewise will choose which days they will patrol heavily.
There will be some days when every one of the jurisdictions will put officers on Randall, Wolf added.
Police did not want to say when those extra patrols would be, however.
Wolf said that the Elgin officer who helped bring the departments together on the effort indicated all the agencies were very receptive to the idea.
Traffic changes planned
Elgin also plans to begin working with the Kane County Transportation Division fix some of the problem intersections here, as well as addressing other issues, Wolf said.
Some of the crashes can be addressed by installing left-turn-only signals, he said, or by reducing the speed limit on Randall.
"There are some parts of Randall Road that are still 55 mph," Wolf said, adding that even the 45 mph zones are too high for some areas.
If the speed limits were reduced to 35 or 40 mph, he said, that could work to reduce accidents without impeding traffic flow.
The bottom line, Wolf said, is that many of the people killed on Randall Road have been young fathers and mothers. One of the hardest things for any police officer is to have to tell a family member that their loved one has died.
"The people who have been killed have been young, with young children. They are deaths that shouldn't have happened," Wolf said. "That is the main reason we are doing this."