Illinois State Police District 13 Trooper Rob Reynolds aims a laser speed gun on west bound traffic out of Carbondale early Friday morning. Area enforcement personnel are increasing patrols this holiday season. (CHUCK NOVARA/THE SOUTHERN)
WILLIAMSON COUNTY - All but the most law-abiding drivers know the "oh, rats" feeling when a police vehicle pulls onto the roadway immediately behind them.
Elizabeth Duckworth of Eldorado said she knew the minute she saw the state trooper she was busted. She said it didn't matter if she was doing anything wrong or not - just the sight of a squad car in the rearview mirror was enough to cause that sinking feeling.
As it happens, Trooper Rob Reynolds gave the young driver a written warning. Her speed was over the posted limit but not so fast as to warrant a ticket, he said.
"This is just a warning for the speed," he told her as he handed her a citation and returned her driver's license and proof of insurance. "Just slow down, please. Also, you're not supposed to have anything hanging from your (rearview) mirror. Just be careful."
Reynolds was working a speed detail Friday morning on Illinois 13 between Carbondale and Marion. The stretch of highway was targeted because of the expected high traffic volume of "Black Friday" shoppers. The state police are among the many law enforcement agencies in the area using extra patrols during the holiday season targeting specific traffic violations and DUI.
"We're looking for speed, erratic driving, lane surfing, seat belts - that kind of thing,' he said. "Everybody is in a hurry. We get a lot of following too close - a lot of people do that. Then they wonder why they can't stop in time when the vehicle in front of them slams on the brakes."
Upgraded equipment has made Reynolds' job easier when working a speed detail. His squad car is equipped with a laser speed gun, which enables Reynolds to target an individual vehicle. He uses the radar while he is driving. A dashboard mount keeps the radar focused on vehicles ahead of him. And in-car laptop computers make it possible for a trooper to run license plates from the car rather than calling in to dispatch.
Reynolds said just the sight of more than one trooper on patrol, or with someone pulled over, usually tends to slow traffic to reasonable speeds. But not always. He said earlier Friday morning a motorcycle driver going about 74 miles per hour saw him in his marked squad car - and sped away into high traffic. The last speed Reynolds had on him was 89 miles per hour.
Speeding away from one trooper won't always work, though, he noted. Some speed details are set up with one trooper running laser and several waiting on call at various interstate exits or other quick-access points to major roads.
It isn't just the interstates and major highways where enhanced patrols may be working. Law enforcement agencies at all levels are on high alert during the holidays.
The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Department of Public Safety is one of two universities to receive a Mini-Grant Alcohol Enforcement Program grant. That grant has the department using extra patrols whether the majority of students are in town or not.
Lt. Harold Tucker said the university police jurisdiction overlaps with the city of Carbondale police jurisdiction and sometimes with outlying counties. That comes as a surprise, sometimes, to drivers pulled over and issued tickets by an SIUC police officer not directly on campus.
"We are a full police department - not just a campus security unit," he said.
Tucker said experience leads when it comes to directed patrols. Police are well aware of the back roads sometimes favored by those driving away from area taverns to near or on-campus housing, he said.
Police officers often say it's not about ruining someone's day when a traffic stop results in citations or arrest. It's about public safety and saving lives. And the enhanced patrols seem to make a difference. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports 109 fewer fatalities so far this year than there were this time last year.
The law enforcement agencies using enhanced patrols will be active throughout the holiday season. In addition to extra officers on speed details, some agencies conduct roadside checks that see drivers pulled over and safety checks conducted according to a set system rather than on suspicion of impairment or traffic violation.
Most of the extra holiday enforcement is federally funded and distributed through the Illinois Department of Transportation.