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Roadside Safety Checks

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Roadside Safety Checks

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
January 18, 2008

Did Stew Cohen just say (just after 7:00AM) on Y103.9 that the Illinois State Police will be conducting roadside safety checks at US 14 and IL 47? You know, those drive-by inspections for compliance with the seatbelt law? The ones where you drive by the officer on foot who stops you if you don't have your seatbelt on?

I cannot think of a bigger waste of manpower and dollars than to have 4-8 State Police troopers standing in the roadway when the temperature is 4 degrees and the windchill is probably -5 degrees. During rush-hour they need to be catching speeders, tailgaters, reckless passers and aggressive drivers. And responding to wrecks. And responding to calls for assistance when an occupied car is parked on the roadway shoulder with its four-way flashers operating.

What can you do to halt this waste? Absolutely nothing. The order comes down from the top, and the troopers do what they are told to do.

Several years ago I passed by six troopers having lunch in a local restaurant, and I asked them what they thought of using their time in this manner. Their expressions told me the answer, and that day was a summer day. They were politically correct enough not to answer otherwise, because the supervisor was right there with them.

This, by the way, extends to our country and local law enforcement agencies, too. They have figured out how to suck up state dollars through grants, so they too can post officers at intersections to catch those committing the outrageous crime of driving without a seatbelt fastened. Or allowing a passenger to sit unbelted in the front seat. Who gets the ticket for that one? The passenger or the driver? Or both?

In fact, one day I could not even get a deputy to ticket an aggressive driver who tailgated me for five miles on Route 120 toward Woodstock, until we drove right into a pack of deputies checking seatbelts. Now, it wasn't the deputy's fault. I think he would have written the ticket, except think his supervisor told him not to.

Would you like to do something to improve safety on the roads? If you see a serious driving violation, contact the police and ask them to stop the driver. Follow at a safe distance until the officer stops that driver. Stop a safe distance behind the patrol car and wait for the officer to come to you. Tell him you are willing to go to court and testify about what you saw, and ask him to write a ticket to that driver. You may have to insist.

Do not let the deputy or cop act as judge and jury. His only role is to accept the complaint and issue the ticket. Go to court and testify about the dangerous driving of the other driver. Then the judge gets to do his job. Now that's doing something for safety on the roads.

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