Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's the Drivers, not the Road!

This week’s Woodstock Independent carries a front-page article about traffic concerns on U.S. Highway 14 near Centegra Memorial Medical Center.

According to the paper and, presumably, the Woodstock Police Department, there have been 185 accidents in the past three years between Lily Pond Road and Lake Avenue – the light in front of Farm & Fleet.

It was quite interesting to read that Woodstock PD presented its concerns about these two miles on Hwy. 14 to IDOT last August (2006).

They would have been preparing their presentation right about the time I tried to file charges against a westbound driver for passing me illegally in the dip just east of the hospital, clearly in a no-passing zone. When I passed Lily Pond Road and was approaching the first hillcrest to the west, there was an older grey 4-door sedan about ¼ mile behind me, almost to Lily Pond Road. Suddenly there was Pontiac TransAm right behind me; I mean, right on my bumper.

In the dip between Lily Pond Road and Doty Road, that driver accelerated and passed me in the no-passing zone. His speed was high and his pass was clearly illegal, so I telephoned the Woodstock PD to see if an officer could get him stopped. They know I will go to court and testify.

No officers were on the road, so I drove to the police station on Lake Avenue. An officer left rollcall and came to the lobby. He didn’t introduce himself, didn’t ask my name, didn’t have a notepad or pen ready, didn’t shake hands, and wouldn’t look me in the eye. It was so obvious that he had been told to come down to listen to me that I said, “What did they do in rollcall, draw straws to see who would have to come and talk to me? And you got the short one?”

He refused to accept my complaint, and I then spoke with his sergeant. The sergeant also refused to accept my complaint. I went home and emailed Chief Lowen, and the next afternoon both the officer and the sergeant pretended to be happy as clams to take my report. I submitted a two-page typewritten statement with the short handwritten report, and the officer’s report mentions my typewritten statement. But it never got to the City Attorney’s office for the attorney who would prosecute the case in court.

We went to court. The prosecuting attorney from the Woodstock City Attorney’s office was not prepared, and he wouldn’t talk to me before the trial. The other driver and his passenger lied about the location where he passed me, and they got away with perjury.

In 11 years I have never seen a Woodstock police car monitoring traffic between Lily Pond Road and Lake Avenue. Is it any wonder that drivers speed, pass illegally, tailgate, run off onto the shoulder or across the center line?

I have recommended use of Woodstock PD’s radar speed trailer there; has it ever been there?

It's not an engineering issue or a speed-reduction issue. It's driver carelessness and willful disobedience of traffic laws. If the P.D. wrote 100-200-300 tickets a week along that two-mile stretch and publicized them well with newspaper articles, radio reports and a billboard with changeable numbers for the number of tickets issued, guess what? No accidents, no speeding and every driver would pay attention.

How about signs in both directions: “High Accident Zone”? “Do not tailgate”? “Speed Limit – Zero Tolerance”?

This problem doesn’t require throwing millions of dollars at it. All that is needed is enforcement of existing laws.

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