Suburban police prepare for ‘Black Wednesday’ drinking crowds, traffic

By Marwa Eltagouri
November 26, 2014 – 9:40 AM

Source: Chicago Tribune

Police departments across the Tri-Cities are prepared for “Black Wednesday” — the night before Thanksgiving that has become one of the most popular drinking nights of the year across the country.

Bar owners in Geneva, St. Charles and Batavia said they believe the night to be one of the bar industry’s biggest because it is the first night of the holiday weekend. A few attributed crowds to college students and young professionals returning to their hometowns for the holiday.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office will be working with city police departments to conduct their annual No-Refusal anti-DUI initiative, which begins Wednesday and goes into early Thanksgiving morning. The initiative makes prosecutors and a judge available to give out search warrants in order to get a DUI suspect to submit to a blood or breath test.

The Geneva Police Department plans to assign two extra officers between 9 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday to monitor bar activity and patrol the roads.

“The purpose is to be proactive and hopefully deter poor decisions on the part of drivers,” said patrol operations commander Julie Nash.

In St. Charles, police officers have been conducting DUI and seat belt enforcement since Nov. 17, and will continue until Sunday as part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Click It or Ticket/Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative.

During the Thanksgiving holiday period last year, seven people died in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois, with three of those deaths involving a drinking driver, a St. Charles Police Department news release said. An additional 723 individuals were injured.

Last year in St. Charles, five injury crashes occurred during the same period, one of which involved a drinking driver. St Charles officers made two DUI arrests and issued 208 traffic citations, police said.

The Batavia Police Department won’t have any additional staffing or regulation Wednesday, but is aware of the night’s popularity, said police detective Kevin Bretz.

“Obviously stores will be busy, we have plenty of establishments here which will be serving liquor,” he said. “But we’re prepared for anything that comes up.”

Bretz said the department still plans to assist Kane County police with no-refusals.

“We feel comfortable with what we have on the road,” he said.

meltagouri@tribpub.com

Twitter @marwaeltagouri

Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune


Batavia considers lowering speed limit on residential street

By Alexa Aguilar,
November 2, 2014 – 7:12 PM

Source: Chicago Tribune

ct-batavia-residential-speed-limits-tl-1106-20141102Batavia aldermen assured a resident who has frequently lobbied for the city to lower its speed limits on residential streets that they are still considering the change but want to do more research.

James Gorski, who lives in the 700 block of Blaine Street, first approached the Batavia City Council in May, pleading that aldermen lower the speed limit on Blaine Street from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. He said he was concerned about speeding through the street and the potential that a child could be struck.

At that May meeting, aldermen told him that city staff would take a look at the issue. Last month, Gorski appeared again before the council, questioning why speed limits hadn’t come up for discussion yet.

City Administrator Bill McGrath told aldermen that his staff had taken a preliminary look. He thinks engineering studies would need to be completed and had asked nearby Geneva, which has 25 miles per hour limits on many residential streets, for their reports. They told him that those limits were set so long ago that they didn’t have engineering reports, McGrath said. The city might have to hire consultants or an engineering firm, he said.

He also noted that the community would incur expense in changing signs.

He bristled at the notion that this should be the city’s top priority.

“We’re not going to drop everything we have and just do this,” he said. “Things get prioritized.”

Ald. Martin Callahan said that multiple residents “have been very vocal” that they would like lowered speed limits to move up that priority list.

This week, New York City lowered its residential speed limits to 25 miles per hour. That effort was led by a mother whose son was struck and killed in a Park Slope neighborhood.

McGrath also said that the lowering limits is more complex than many think. State law would prohibit police from using radar guns further than 500 feet from a posted sign, he said.

“We need to be on firm ground and know what the implications are for enforcement,” McGrath said.

Callahan said that for a town that promotes being pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, lowering speed limits would be justified. And he also said he’s seen studies that showed that lowering speed limits results in safer streets.

Ald. Susan Stark questioned whether lowering the speed limit would make a practical difference, or if speeding drivers would simply continue speeding. She said the council considered the issue years ago and opted to keep limits at 30 miles per hour.

The council told Gorski that city staff would continue to research and bring a recommendation to the council in coming months.

Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune


TakeAways

If ever there was a time for unilateral action on the part of municipalities it is when considering the lowering of the speed limit. Nobody is going to like it, but it will save lives.

Pumping millions of dollars into painting the roadways with pretty green paint and adding PVC bollards is ‘more glamorous’ and it does have the ‘me too‘ feel that politicians and cycling activists love, but frankly that approach is expensive. Far more expensive than the simple benefits derived by lowering the speed limit to 15 mph and setting up speed cameras.

You can always take the money you might earn from the cameras and tossing dumb ass drivers in jail for disobeying the DUI laws next year. But nothing succeeds as well as the simple lowering of the speed limit.