Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another FOIA Request Denied - 150MPH Speeder

On May 28 I wrote to the Illinois State Police FOIA officer to request information about the 150MPH speeder on Kishwaukee Valley Road back in January. I knew she had received the request, because she called me for the driver's name. I told her to call the commander of the State Police office in Elgin, out of which the ticket was written. Finally the response came.

I'm still laughing... and planning the Appeal.

Here's what I asked for... date, time and location of violation. speed and how measured. direction of travel. make and model of car. citation number. court date. court location, if not McHenry County. copy of citation and police report.

What was the response?

"Some documents requested are enclosed."

What was enclosed? A statement that the information, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the driver consented. And that it would consitute an invasion of personal privacy.

There was more. A line of computer codes. At least now I know it happened on Jan. 17 at 2:20PM in Marengo Township in McHenry County. The speed was 145MPH.

What a pile of rubbish! The driver must have a court date that either passed or is coming up because of continuances. How can the public know that justice was served, when the Illinois State Police, funded by taxpayer dollars, withholds general information? You'll notice that I did not ask for the driver's name, home address, or any other personal identifiers.

I want to know when to go to court and watch him weasel out of this ticket. I want to see which high-powered McHenry County attorney represents him and what legal maneuvers are used to get the ticket thrown out. I want to see what judge stands up and protects the public.

Col. Michael R. Snyders and Deputy Director Charles Brueggeemann participated in the decision to deny this FOIA Request. Maybe I'll have to file a FOIA request to learn how many FOIA requests they received in the past 12 months and how many were approved.

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be know they can jerk around the public and try to hide behind FOIA exclusions, unless pushed into Circuit Court, where they would have to explain that they really had no reason to deny a request in the first place.

What kind of "clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" could occur if the public learned when a driver of a car at 145MPH is supposed to be in court? I have some rights to be safe on the highway. Had I been in front of him, poking along at the 55MPH speed limit, I'd be dead from a rear-end crash when he hit me at a closing rate of 90MPH.

The appeal will be filed with Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent next week. Care to guess what his decision will be? Let's see; what are the hours at the Circuit Court???

"How's My Driving?" Do you call?

Have you seen the stickers on the back of trucks with “How’s My Driving?” Have you ever called to report unlawful driving? Or maybe even called to report safe or courteous driving?

Today I was tailgated in McHenry by a white Chevrolet Astro van owned by Otis – a United Technologies Company. After the driver tailgated me west on Charles Miller Road (we used to call it Bull Valley Road) from Green Street, the traffic stopped westbound for the red light at Route 31.

The driver pulled up very close to me before turning into the center, no-passing lane to access the left-turn lane at Route 31 early. He didn’t get through the light, and guess who stopped right alongside him when the light for through traffic changed??? You betcha!

That was where I got his license plate number (60 244G), and the phone number to call to report unsafe driving (800) 827-SAFE. And his truck Unit No. – ZT 936.

Won’t he be surprised in a day or two when his manager asks him just where in tarnation did he think he was going in such a hurry?

Of course, the police are never around when you need them (or want them). But this is the next best, and it’s probably more effective than a ticket and Court Supervision. If an employer gets very many calls about bad driving, we can only hope they will take stern action to keep their vehicle liability rates down.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

$3.07 or $3.23???

How come we are still getting ripped off on gas prices in Woodstock? Check for prices. $3.23/gal. is the lowest right now in Woodstock.

But in Crystal Lake? $3.15/gal. all up and down US 14 right through Crystal Lake.

And, at the corner of IL 31 and IL 62 in Algonquin? How about $3.07/gallon?

Tonight I bought a little gas at Jewel Express and, after paying outside and pumping, went inside for the manager's name and phone number. I complained to the girl behind the counter (like she could do something about it; right?) and told her and the other customers that we are getting ripped off in Woodstock.

It wasn't long ago that gas prices in Woodstock were usually less than in Crystal Lake. No longer!

Check out regularly. Right now $3.04 all up and down Randall Road in Algonquin.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oh, brave vandal...

I wonder who the hooligan is who is so brave that he can vandalize a parking sign on the Square. This morning as I stopped on eastbound Jackson at the corner of Johnson St., right alongside the Woodstock Square Mall, I noticed that the 2-Hour Parking sign had been vandalized.

It must take real courage for someone to stand on the wall or stand on the hood of a car to bend a City parking sign. Perhaps the City could recognize him (or her) at a City Council meeting and give him a plaque, commemorating his civic duty, and then direct the police chief to haul him off the jail.

A good penalty would be seven days in the County jail, a $500 fine, and 30 days of community service wearing a bright orange jump suit with the wording “I vandalized a City sign.” Have him help Public Works replace the sign, and have him walk (what? Walk? Could that be cruel and unusual punishment?) around Woodstock and record the locations of other vandalized and damaged signs.

Residents should report all vandalized, damaged and missing signs to or by calling 815/338-6118.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the Square? Where???

This week-end’s highly-touted Woodstock Music Fest was advertised as “on the Woodstock Square.” Really? “On” the Square?

Anyone looking for the Music Fest on the Square Friday night was sorely disappointed. What you had to do was walk OFF the Square, north on Main Street past the movie theater, up the driveway and into the parking lot behind the movie theater.

How in the world did they get away with advertising it as “on” the Square? Had it been “on” the square, listeners could have brought blankets and sat on the grass or on one of the benches on the Square.

Is there anyone is town who thinks that the parking lot west of the movie theater is “on” the Square? If so, raise your hands. Both of you…
There are three common vehicle violations that, in my mind, are closely related to major moving traffic violations:

1. Failure to display front license plates,
2. Heavily-tinted plastic covers over front and rear license plates, and
3. Darkened front side windows, even windshields.

Many will say that it would be a really petty ticket, if a police officer stopped a driver for No Front License Plate and wrote him a ticket. Same with the others.

However, my experience in driving at the legal posted speed limit is that many of the drivers who tear down the road, tailgate me, pass me on the left closely (without fully leaving my lane), and who pass me on the right shoulder and by using exit and entrance lanes on expressways and the Tollway as passing lanes, are drivers whose cars are in such violations.

If a driver is tailgating me (say, about 5’-6’ behind me at 55MPH), I can easily read his front license plate, if it’s there. Of course, if it’s not, I can’t.

Illinois is a two-plate state. License plates are to be displayed on the front and rear of passenger cars. Many drivers of foreign cars don’t display front license plates. Many Corvettes, BMWs, Mazdas, and sports cars do not have front license plates. Gee, it upsets the styling…. Well, too bad. Illinois law does NOT say that you must display two license plates, unless you drive a Corvette!

If a driver passes me recklessly or dangerously close, I can sic the cops on him, but I need to be able to identify him. If the front side windows are heavily (and illegally) darkened, I can’t see the driver. Unless I can get a cop to stop him while he is still in my sight, I am wasting my time reporting him to the police.

And if he has a heavily-tinted plastic lens over the rear license plate, I may not be able to read the plate as he passes me.

It was interesting to hear remarks by the Illinois State Police Sector Commander for three dangerous roadways in northern Chicagoland. When I asked about the correlation between speeders and reckless drivers and the cars with these violations, he said he didn’t know of a study about such a relationship. But he did say that front plates, unobscured license plates, and clear front side windows and windshield are essential to the use of the PhotoRadar van in the construction zones. The photograph needs to show the plates and the driver’s face.

A speeder through a Construction Zone might not end up with only a speeding ticket. If a plate is missing or obscured, he might be ticketed for that, too. Just a little sweetener, don’t you know? (My words.)

Last year I asked a Woodstock police officer to ticket a driver who passed me illegally on U.S. 14 east of the hospital and to ticket him for no front license plate. The officer failed to issue the ticket for the license plate violation. We lost in court because the driver and his passenger lied to the judge, and we didn’t even get him on the front plate violation because the cop failed to write that ticket, even though I requested it orally and in writing. Sometimes you have to take what you can get, and we didn’t even get that one.

Do the police around here write tickets for license plate violations and darkened windows? Not very often.

Watch out! Broken Glass!

One of my readers has asked me to write about the amount of broken glass on sidewalks in Woodstock. Well, okay; here goes…

What kind of rocket scientist lives in Woodstock that he (or she) will just throw down a glass or glass bottle on a sidewalk? Wouldn’t it be nice to catch him doing so? What would you do, if you did?

I’d give him two choices. “Start picking it up, or start preparing your explanation because a cop is going to be here in about two minutes.”

On many sidewalks in Woodstock you can walk through broken glass. Recently there was glass on the sidewalk on West Jackson between Pleasant and Tryon. This was along the parade route. Doesn’t the City check sidewalks after a parade? Probably not.

There was also glass on the sidewalk in front of the large house on the southwest corner of Dean and South Streets. Now, it’s for sure that the owner didn’t go out there and throw down a glass. So, who did?

Another location of broken glass was by the mailbox on the corner of South Jefferson and Fremont Streets.

What can you do when you spot glass on the sidewalk or in the street?

Send an email to the Public Works Department. Write to You can expect pretty good service. I suggest email, because there is a paper trail for you, and it’s easy for them to handle. If you really like telephoning, call 815/338-6118 during normal business hours; or you can call after hours and leave a message.

Be organized to leave essential details. Give them a street address where the problem is and when you last noticed it. I have found them generally responsive to requests for service.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dangerous Driving in Algonquin

Have you driven on Route 31 through the intersection in Algonquin at Route 62? Or should I ask - - Have you joined the rolling parking lot at that corner?

The roadway is absolutely over-used, but is this an excuse for drivers to disregard lane markings and drive down the center of the road to enter the left-turn lane at the light?

Yesterday I photographed more than 30 drivers in 10 minutes who violated traffic laws by driving into the center of the roadway. They violated center lane restrictions, drove straight through intersections, drove the wrong way in oncoming left-turn lanes.

Pity the poor, law-abiding driver to sticks it out in the through lane until he reaches the legal entrance to the left-turn lane and then cannot get over into the left-turn lane, because there is a four-block line of cars already there. At least they are stopped.

The Algonquin Police Department is a team of fine officers and they are stretched thin, just like every other department. But why do they tolerance these daily violations?

I have suggested that the Village of Algonquin and IDOT work together to provide better signing on Route 31. Install signs that warn drivers to “Stay Right” and not to use the center lane illegally.

I’d like to see the cops write tickets to the violators right where they are – stopped right in the illegal part of the roadway. And document the violation with a photograph. Iif a judge saw a photograph of a driver stopped facing the wrong way in a left-turn lane and the officer writing him a ticket, how could he not convict? And then the judge should assess a fine, court costs and traffic school and NOT grant Court Supervision.

How do we get judges to wake up and realize that Court Supervision looks very much like a get-out-of-jail-almost-free card? The chance of a violator’s getting stopped is very low in the first place; getting stopped twice in 90 days is even lower.

There are many other intersections like this. Say, for example, on Rakow Road at Pyott and at Pingree Roads. There, you must be really careful because of the jerks in their huge pick-up trucks who come roaring up the middle of the road at 30-40MPH past a long line of stopped cars at a red light.

Or right here in Woodstock on Route 47, where drivers cruise up the middle of the two-way left-turn lane past lines of stopped cars to enter the left turn lane at the light.

To police departments these violations look minor, because there aren’t many accidents or fatalities. At least, there aren’t at these locations. But what do drivers learn? That they can ignore the laws. And this attitude causes accidents elsewhere.

Watch those yellow lines…

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Under-age Drinking

On Wednesday evening Rick Atwater led a very interesting discussion on under-age drinking and parents who provide alcoholic beverages to minor friends of their children. The meeting was the Family Council of the Family CARE Project, funded by a $9,000,000, six-year grant awarded to the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Rick is a member of the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition. He led the discussion by asking questions and allowing plenty of communication among the participants, who are family members involved in some way with the mental health agencies of McHenry Council.

No consensus was reached on why parents provide alcohol to minors. During the discussion I mentioned that I had been an observer in McHenry County Judge Bolger’s court in McHenry last year and watched him accept plea bargains from youth represented by a McHenry attorney. These kids, and there were several of them, had been arrested for under-age drinking. Judge Bolger accepted guilty pleas to unlawful parking and fined each of them $100 (plus court courts, of course). So, assuming $150-200 in court costs and $250 in legal fees, it was a $500 “hit” for the parents.

But what was the lesson for the kids? After they turned away from the judge, they were all smiles and laughing as they left the courtroom.

What we need is a judge who will refuse such plea bargains. Have the State’s Attorney actually do the job his office gets paid to do – prosecute crimes. Make the case well and expect to prove guilt.

I also mentioned a comment about our own McHenry County State’s Attorney in the Daily Herald (not the Northwest Herald), following the drunk driving fatality in DuPage County, when a female Assistant State’s Attorney killed herself while reportedly driving drunk, speeding and talking on her cell phone.

Said the Daily Herald on May 26, 2007, “McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi has a standing agreement with his staff: If, for any reason, they cannot drive, he personally will reimburse them for their cab fare home."

Gee, thanks, Dad.

Does he mean if one of his Assistant State’s Attorneys is out to lunch and gets food poisoning? Or if he gets a little hot when it’s 92º and “cannot drive”? Or if he is too tired after a hard day prosecuting cases in McHenry County?

Or does he mean if an Assistant State’s Attorney drinks too much and is drunk and cannot drive?

If this is what he really means, then I suggest he needs to send another message to his employees. He needs to tell them that, if they are ever too drunk to drive, he is going to fire them.

Check out this article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune about the mom in Virginia who is going to jail for two years for buying $340 worth of beer for her kids' party:,1,4093333.story

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

POLICE (not really)

Yesterday morning I passed through the Crystal Lake intersection of U.S. 14 and IL 176 about 8:30AM, when the roadway to the west was closed for a multiple-vehicle accident. This morning’s paper indicated the roadway was closed for about five hours.

On the west side of the intersection was a female Community Service Officer (CSO) of the Crystal Lake Police Department. She had correctly positioned her vehicle to block westbound traffic, and she was motioning to westbound traffic on 176 to turn either left or right.

All fine and dandy. Although there was a lack of military precision to her hand movements, as there usually is with civilian and police traffic control personnel, she was doing an acceptable job. At least, no one approaching the intersection from the east on 176 was trying to go straight ahead.

The situation was different for vehicles westbound on US 14. Drivers in the left-turn lane were being directed to go straight ahead. Unfortunately, drivers on westbound US 14 in the through lane had no way to know that drivers in the left-turn lane could not turn left and were being directed to go straight ahead, and there were plenty of near-misses and angry reactions.

I called the police department to suggest that the Street Department place traffic cones to close the westbound left-turn lane, but I don’t know whether that suggestion was implemented. There often is little coordination between police and streets departments when it comes to accident response.

The CSO was wearing a bright orange vest with the word POLICE on it. I looked for a weapon and saw none. Her vehicle was marked as a Community Service vehicle. In most towns a CSO is not a sworn police officer and is not armed.

Is it appropriate, then, for a CSO to wear a vest labeled POLICE? I think it is not.

If the wrong “crazy” gets mad at a traffic-control point and decides to take out his anger on the nearest police officer, the CSO may be the target. He or she is unarmed and probably untrained in self-defense. Putting a POLICE vest on a non-police officer is a decision that needs a close review by the police department. Some other warning wording would be preferable, such as TRAFFIC CONTROL.

CSOs might need 2-3 different vests in their vehicles for different situations. Even “CSO” is better than POLICE.

But it’s the warning vest that is the key, and that’s what gets a driver’s attention. Traffic control by a CSO is a good use of personnel, as long as the CSO is trained and gets enough experience. It’s especially tricky at non-right-angle intersections and those with multiple lanes in opposite directions (like the one in question).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stop – at the stop sign? Nahhhhh…..

Next time you’re at the Jewel-Osco in Woodstock, you might want to think twice about stopping at any of the stop signs… at least, for the time-being. There are several stop signs in front of Jewel, by Hollywood Video and at busy parking lot intersections. I don’t know why the developer wasted its money.

Usually, when you see a stop sign, it means Stop. Come to a complete, four-wheel, dead stop. Then, when the path is clear, you can “go”. Except in the Jewel-Osco shopping center in Woodstock.

There the stop signs are pretty. They look real. They are where they are needed. And they are totally worthless, because they are unenforceable. A Woodstock cop could be sitting right there and see you go through it at 30MPH, and he won’t be able to stop you or write you a ticket.

Most busy shopping centers create a legal agreement with the local police department that allows the police department to enforce traffic laws on their private property. Around here that would be called a Vehicular Control Agreement (VCA). There was one at the old Jewel property a little farther south on the other side of 47. For some strange reason, when the new shopping center was built and Jewel-Osco moved, no one bothered to get a new VCA put in force.

I tried for about two years, but my single, solitary voice was not loud enough to get it done. Even tried to get the Jewel manager involved and the Jewel corporate office. I pestered the property manager at CB Richard Ellis. If you’d like to take a shot at it, here are some phone numbers:

Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen 815-338-2131
City Manager Tim Clifton 815-338-4300
CB Richard Ellis 847-706-4900 (getting name of new contact)
Woodstock Jewel Store Manager Stano Bombicino 815-206-0499
Jewel Regional Office (getting name of new contact)

So, in the meantime, if you step off the curb in front of Jewel, do NOT expect drivers to stop for you. You may want to call your insurance agent to be sure your life, health and disability insurance policies are paid up.

Oh, yes, and the Fire Lane and Loading Zone markings? You might as well ignore them, too, because police do not enforce them, either.

But beware. Someday all this might change… And there probably won’t be any warning.

County Board Muzzle?

Is the McHenry County Board attempting to muzzle residents and other objectors to matters being heard at the Board level after passing through the Zoning Board of Appeals?

By telling residents to appear before the ZBA and then allowing the ZBA to exclude comments by those residents from its report and recommendations, does the County Board effectively stick its fingers in its ears and cover its eyes to the facts and opinions of residents about projects?

An objector to a matter before the ZBA should certainly voice his opinion and present facts there that he believes relevant to a zoning matter. But, when the ZBA recommends a project to the County Board and a resident, neighbor, or citizen doesn’t agree, then that person must have the right to approach the body that will make the ultimate decision.

Should the County Board even limit remarks on a Tuesday night to three minutes? If a citizen wishes to present information and stays on the topic to present new information (and not merely a re-hash of another speaker’s remarks), should he be limited to three minutes? Does the “three-minute rule” just create a situation where Board members “can endure anything if it’s just for three minutes”? “Go ahead; torture me. I can handle anything for three minutes!”

If a speaker presents facts and opinions at the County Board meeting, then we all know that the Board heard them. Well, errr, at least that the speaker said them and the Board should have heard them. If the Board then goes willy-nilly along on its own way, the record will be clear, and the Board members will not be able to say later that they “didn’t know.”

More County resident attendance and participation are needed at County Board meetings. They are making decisions and spending our money. We should be paying closer attention. All the time.

Got a tip for me? Email me at

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Judge Sauer for President

Three cheers for Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer, who ordered Paris Hilton brought to court on Friday by deputies and sent her back to jail.

As for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca? Judge Sauer should give him 15 days in jail for contempt of court. I’ve got news for Baca. The sheriff obeys the judge; not the other way around.

But I do wonder what happened to the original 45-day sentence, with no early release or home monitoring. How did her sentence get knocked down to 23 days before she ever entered jail? The jail over-crowding concern holds no water, since she'll be in the celebrity holding pen.

Sorry, Paris. No gourmet meals. No frolicking, dancing all night, drives around town. Looks like Judge Sauer is going to make his rules stick.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Gas Price-Gouging

How come Woodstock gas prices are about a dime over Crystal Lake? Woodstock prices have come down a little, but there is no reason whatsoever for them to be higher than Crystal Lake?

Ready to buy gas? Go to and determine what stations are along your next route. Lowest price in Illinois at this moment is $2.90/gal. in Granite City, Ill. OK, so it's a long drive...

Basically, we are getting ripped off right here at home.

What can you do? Next time you buy gas in Woodstock, ask the clerk for the name of the station's management office and phone number. Call and gripe. Tell your friends to call and gripe. Tell the clerk that you are going to buy gas in Crystal Lake and ask the clerk to inform her manager.

Remember, the clerk doesn't set the price, so don't dump on her. And remember....

check out

Viking Dodge-buster

Have you driven along U.S. 14 in Crystal Lake and wondered about the man who parks his car near Viking Dodge, which is located on IL 176 at U.S. 14 on the west end of Crystal Lake? The one with the big anti-Viking Dodge sign on it?

Today I stopped to talk with him. Wayne is retired, a veteran, and is 71 years of age. He lives in Marengo, and some time back he attempted to purchase a car from Viking Dodge. If you’d like to know his story, stop and talk with him and/or read it on

A Viking Dodge employee was charged with stealing a sign off Wayne’s car. All Wayne wanted was the $40.00 for the sign, but the employee wouldn’t cough it up. So Wayne had him arrested. After many continuances in court, Wayne was there yet one more time, and the employee’s attorney asked for another continuance. Wayne told the judge that there had already been several continuances, and he asked for the trial to be held that day. The judge agreed, heard the case and found the employee Guilty.

Does that employee still work there? What do you think?

Viking Dodge will be in court this week, and Wayne and his attorney will be there. Viking would love to get Wayne booted off the shoulder of the state highway, where he parks legally with a sign directing attention to Hello, has anyone in McHenry County heard of First Amendment rights?

This is definitely a case of David v. Goliath.

Three cheers for “David”! That’s you, Wayne.

Safety Checks – What a Waste!

This afternoon I was driving south on Route 31 from McHenry toward Crystal Lake in a 55MPH zone, when traffic slowed for no apparent reason. Turns out there was a reason! A McHenry County Sheriff’s Dept. squad car with its emergency lights flashing was parked on the southbound shoulder, and two Sheriff’s Dept. cars (one marked, one unmarked) were parked on the northbound shoulder with emergency lights flashing.

“OK, where’s the wreck? Where is the car of the person they stopped for a felony arrest?”

Deputies were standing on the southbound shoulder, enjoying the sun and the beautiful weather on a nice Saturday afternoon. Maybe they were conducting safety checks – those time- and taxpayer dollar-wasting interruptions so popular these days.

How do you possibly check for seatbelts when traffic is passing in both directions at 45-55MPH??? If they spotted someone unbelted, what were they going to do? Dash to their cars and give chase? Endangering everyone else in their attempt to enforce the law and write a $75 ticket?

If the Sheriff is going to waste the time of his deputies by assigning them to such dangerous duty (more important than stopping speeders, illegal passers, tailgaters), why doesn’t he direct them to hang out at stop signs and where there is adequate space to direct a driver off the road?

Of course, it may not cost “us” right here in McHenry County, because it seems to me I have heard of grants that pay for the time of the deputies. So, are they out there on over-time pay, sucking up the State dollars from the public trough?

Perhaps I’ll file a Freedom of Information Act request and ask for the hours expended, pay for the deputies who were there, expense of the County’s patrol cars, and how many dollars did the Sheriff’s Department receive for that assignment. Oh, yes, and the number of tickets written, if any. They certainly weren't doing any business as I passed.

I’ll promise you this. When I am Sheriff of McHenry County, there will be NO “safety checks”, which really aren’t safety checks at all. A safety check would be driver’s license, insurance, registration, lights, horn, wipers, turn signals, brakes, front AND rear license plates, NO tinted lens covers over either plate, and no illegal darkened front windows. How’s THAT for a “safety check”?

Stalled Train in Woodstock

An open letter to numerous City of Woodstock officials about the train stalled in Woodstock on Friday morning, June 8, that blocked intersections (that’s plural) for at least 80 minutes. Sent to the City Manager, Asst. City Manager, Police Chief, head of Public Works. Also to the WFRD chief and the Northwest Herald reporter of the story in Saturday’s paper…

I am not requesting anyone's time to answer the following questions to me, but I hope they are being addressed.

8:30AM Police learn of stalled train.
8:52AM I called to request a ticket be issued to the engineer for blocking intersections. Dispatcher said train had broken down. Didn't sound to me like anyone intended to ticket the engineer.
9:50AM Intersections re-opened.

Three officers on South and on Calhoun? When I drove north on Madison to South St. at 8:49AM, there was no officer. Traffic was a mess at the tunnel, on southbound Seminary, on westbound 120 at Madison.

Is there no game plan in Woodstock for this type of problem? Where was Public Works with detour signs? Where were police at other sticking points to re-route traffic? Are Public Works employees trained to assist with traffic control during this type of problem?

Is emergency equipment positioned so that this type of problem will not cause seriously extended response times? Are police trained to control traffic flow around standing vehicles so that fire trucks, ambulances and even police cars on emergency response can get past long lines of standing vehicles?

Was the problem with the engine or one of the freight cars? Was a back-up engine requested, so that freight cars could be uncoupled and pulled clear of the intersections? Are directions from the City of Woodstock to the train track users and dispatchers that, if the problem is with a freight car and not the engine, they are to uncouple cars and move clear of intersections?

If a major fire had broken out on the Square, fire equipment from the Judd St. station would have had to go out to Route 47, south at least to Lake Avenue and then fight traffic back to the Square.

How interesting to read that the 30-minute road delay for a stalled train on Wednesday did not provoke police assistance. A driver has no way of knowing how long the gates will be down. If there is no train actually blocking a RR intersection, some drivers are tempted to violate the crossing gate law and go around gates. Every delay should call for some type of motorist assistance. Just send the bill to the train operator.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

IL 53 Speedway

This afternoon I drove north from Woodfield Mall on Illinois Highway 53. Getting on just south of I-90 was uneventful. For some strange reason, there was a break in traffic and no one hurried to fill in the gap before I could enter the roadway. The speed limit is 55MPH.

After the congestion for the I-90 weave, the roadway opens up and drivers take off. Well, you’d think they were taking off from the ground and hoping to become airborne. Very quickly the average speed of moving traffic appeared to be about 70MPH – a full 15MPH over the posted speed limit.

I was tailgated numerous times as I poked along in the right lane at the 55MPH speed limit. There are days when I really do wonder why I am crazy enough to still drive at the speed limit and not speed up. When the “flow” is 70MPH, it is very dangerous to drive 15MPH less than the flow of traffic, even in the right-hand lane.

Am I the only person in northern Illinois who respects and obeys the speed limits?

I called Lt. Anderson of the Chicago District of the Illinois State Police and left a long message for him that I was very upset about the traffic flow northbound at 2:30PM. I’m telling you - - it was insane. And it’s like that all the time. Traffic flow today was 70-75MPH.

On some mornings I have driven south on IL 53. It's just as bad.

Here’s what I think. I believe the Illinois State Police tolerates 15MPH, unless a driver is aggressively changing lanes and commits some other flagrant violation.

What’s needed? The cops will NEVER regain control of speeds by writing one ticket at a time. PhotoRadar is the solution. You know, the combination radar gun and camera? Radar measures your speed, a camera photographs your car, and a computer mails the ticket to you. I favor putting a camera over each lane and a set of cameras every five miles. Mail out the tickets once a month. When a driver gets 10-15-20 speeding tickets in the mail one Monday and adds up the fines at, say, $100 each, this will get his attention. Maybe…

Require court appearance, in person, every time. Don’t allow attorneys to appear in a driver’s place – make the driver be there, too. Do not grant Court Supervision. Report all convictions to the Secretary of State. Put all convictions on the driver’s license record. Report all convictions to insurance companies. In fact, report all tickets to insurance companies!

I’d like to see the cops establish rolling blockades, such as the California Highway Patrol did years ago. Police cars, side by side, at the speed limit. Nobody gets around!

I’ve heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Slow drivers down for 21 days. Force habit-change.

Use aircraft to spot lane-jumpers, shoulder-riders, inside lane passers, tailgaters, and use motorcycle cops to nail them.

Put up billboards with changeable electronic read-outs for real-time updates on number of tickets being generated and fines to be levied. Oh, yes…don’t forget to display court costs, which might be 2- or 3-times the cost of the fine.

Anyone else in favor of hardball on this topic?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Almost rammed at 55MPH!

I had an exciting day on Chicagoland freeways (and not-so-free ways) today. I drove from Schaumburg to Tinley Park and back. For those of you who don’t have a clue where Tinley Park is, it’s on Oak Park Avenue near I-80. Waaaaaayyyyyy south, for you Woodstock folks.

The drive there was fairly uneventful. Just the usual bumper-to-bumper truckers at 70MPH in the 55MPH zone, the tailgaters, the speeders and lane-weavers and others who think the Speed Limit in the Minimum Speed at which they are to travel.

On the trip there, the one that probably most irritated me was the Illinois State Police trooper in car C-163 who passed me in a 45MPH construction zone. He was just moving with traffic at about 55-60MPH, but that’s 10-15MPH over the posted construction zone speed limit, and that’s not okay with me.

I think Illinois State Police troopers ought to be setting the example and driving at the posted speed limit. Gee, what a novel idea! Of course, I realize they’ll take a lot of heat for “impeding traffic”, but how can you “impede traffic” when you are driving at the speed limit?

In any event, I already had the phone number for the Chicago District of the Illinois State Police programmed in my cell phone, and I dialed them and left a message for the trooper’s supervisor. He called me back within about ten minutes and listened respectfully to my complaint. He inquired whether I wanted to make a formal complaint, and I did not. The trooper was just moving along with traffic, and he was not speeding faster than traffic flow. However, I thought his proper speed should be 45MPH and for him to be slowing down the fast pace through the construction zone.

On the return trip I was almost rear-ended by a woman driving a Toyota Corolla 4-door sedan with a handicap license plate. I was driving at 55MPH in the right-hand lane, approaching my exit at Woodfield Mall. I watched her come up fast behind me in the right lane. As she neared my car, I activated the 4-way flashers to warn her. No luck! So I accelerated (rats…. faster than 55MPH….) to avoid behind rear-ended. Still she was gaining on me. At the last minute she applied the brakes hard and slowed before hitting me. Whew!

Then she passed me and waved one of those “I’m sorry” waves and exited for Woodfield Mall. There must have been a good sale starting at 3:00PM!

If I want to stay up until midnight, I’ll post on all the license plates of the most dangerous drivers I encountered on my two hours on I-290 and I-294 today.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Illegal Parking – Why Must a Citizen Complain?

In little, old, sleepy Woodstock why should it be necessary for citizens to complain about recurring parking violations? Why don’t the police notice these violations and act on their own initiative to ticket violators?

Why kinds of parking violations are there?

For starters, how about the no-parking zone on the corner in front of Starbuck’s (actually in front of Read Between the Lynes), where drivers stop “just for a minute” to run for their fix of latté, sometimes even leaving the engine running and/or kids in the car? These drivers not only park illegally, they obscure the sight line of drivers heading for the mailboxes and put pedestrians at risk.

Should they get a warning? No way! These drivers know it’s illegal to park there. They do so probably expecting a warning, if they get any contact by police at all. I say, ticket them the first time and every time.

How about the No Parking zone on Lincoln Avenue, just off Tryon, by St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Sunday mornings? There are usually 1-2 cars in the No Parking zone. Now, if the City wants to change the sign to read “No Parking, except Sunday mornings”, then it would be okay. Until it does, officers should ticket the cars in the No Parking zone.

Next, how about drivers who block sidewalks? The motor vehicle code is clear that you don’t park across a sidewalk. Heck, even common sense would tell you that you don’t park across a sidewalk. Do the police ticket these drivers? Well, maybe (possibly), if someone calls and complains. Why should pedestrians and children on bikes have to enter the street to pass?

Should it really be necessary to call and complain? No! The motor vehicle code is clear. How long does it take to write a parking ticket? Sixty seconds? An officer on routine police patrol should be noticing these violations and handling them himself. No citizen should ever have to call about them.

Many houses and apartment buildings are over-rented; i.e., the managers rent to occupants with too many cars. No one cares where these cars are parked, as long as they are parked legally.

How about drivers who park facing the wrong way on a street, with the driver’s door nearest the curb? Except on a one-way street, such parking is illegal. But it happens all over Woodstock, because there has been no enforcement. Again the beat officer patrolling his territory (beat) should handle this. If he wanted to play “nice”, he could contact the driver and give him one warning. And ticket him the next time. And there will be a next time. Why is this type of parking illegal? Because a driver has to drive on the wrong side of the roadway TWICE: once when parking and a second time when leaving the parking space.

Got your own parking complaints? How about listing some addresses of frequent problems?