There hasn't been a traffic fatality in the village of Glen Carbon since 2003, according to Officer Wayne White.

That's when the Police Department began participating in the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge, taking first place several times in its class in the statewide competition and once in the national competition.

This year, Glen Carbon tied for second place in the Champions category.

After taking first place in 2005, the department had to compete against all of the other first-place champions in all classes.

The department tied for second place with the Will County Sheriff's Department for their 2006 safety campaigns.

The Algonquin Police Department took first place overall and was named best overall department.

White said there is definitely a connection between the elimination of traffic fatalities and the department's participation in the Traffic Safety Challenge because the object of the challenge is to reduce the number of traffic crashes that would result in fatalities or serious injuries.

Sgt. J.T. Jones was the Traffic Safety coordinator for 2006, selecting U.S. presidents as the theme of the report entered in the challenge. For example, President Ronald Reagan was called the Great Communicator. The report noted that the Police Department has a similar role in communicating the message of safety to motorists.

"I think our police officers did an outstanding job and the people of Glen Carbon did too, in obeying the seat-belt laws," Jones said.

In addition to the increase in the use of seat belts in 2006, there were 30 percent fewer speed-related traffic crashes in the village than in 2005.

The traffic safety program has three goals: to educate the public, to obtain public service announcements, and to strictly enforce all traffic-related laws, especially the ones requiring seat belts, speed limits and prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The campaign to wear seat belts has had an effect in the state, too. Last year, the state of Illinois had the highest seat-belt usage in the continental United States. In surveys, 88 percent of front seat occupants were buckled up. So far, in 2007, 90.1 percent are wearing their seat belts.

The traffic fatality rate throughout the state in 2006 was lower, too, 7 percent lower than in 2005. There were 1,267 traffic-related fatalities in Illinois in 2006, the lowest number since 1924. The good news is there are 29 fewer traffic fatalities in Illinois this year than there were at this same date in 2006.

"That's the whole reason for the program," White said.

The Glen Carbon Police Department received recognition for its Traffic Safety Challenge program at the recent annual conference of the Illinois Chiefs of Police in the Chicago area.

The department also won a portable laser-radar unit in a random drawing. It is an UltraLyte LR B model that allows police to zero in on a particular vehicle by spotting it with the laser to check how fast it is traveling. It is especially useful in multi-lane traffic for pinpointing the target vehicle. The UltraLyte LR B features a weather filter that makes it possible to target vehicle speed through moderate rain or snow. It has a shoulder harness that allows officers to use the unit from the roadside to apprehend drivers who are in violation of the speed limit. Laser Technology Inc. donated the unit and White estimated its purchasing cost would be between $3,000 and $4,000.

©Edwardsville Intelligencer 2007