Police Chief asks drivers to be safe and responsible
By David Dial October 23, 2010 7:18PM
Driving safety includes car seat safety installation. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2011 5:00AM
The Naperville Police Department is dedicated to your safety. I’m very confident in saying that because I am your police chief, and it is my job to ensure that we all live and work in a safe community.
In the Police Department, we hear residents’ concerns about safety. More often than not, the concerns expressed by our fellow residents center on traffic safety. I hear your concerns, and I share them. Because of that, I make traffic safety a top priority for Naperville police. This becomes especially important during the holiday season.
How, exactly, are we dedicated to traffic safety and what does that mean? We dedicate significant amounts of time and resources to an array of traffic safety programs designed with a single purpose — voluntary compliance. We want people to drive safely, we want people to drive courteously, and we want people to not drive when they’ve been drinking. We want people to drive safely not because we’re telling them to, but because it’s the right thing to do. We know this is a lofty goal.
To reach that goal, we conduct education programs for new drivers and adult drivers; we teach parents how to properly install child safety seats; we conduct DUI education programs for college-age drivers; we work with local liquor establishments to train their employees to recognize intoxicated patrons before they cause harm to themselves or others; and we write the occasional article for The Naperville Sun. We do this so we can communicate concerns we all share about traffic safety to the people with whom we share the roads.
Much of the work we do is behind-the-scenes, proactive driver education, in cooperation with schools and businesses, to get drivers to understand the importance of traffic safety and to take responsibility for their actions.
Responsibility is a key word here, which leads to a more visible component of our traffic safety programs — enforcement. That component seems to be a very polarizing topic.
Some people think we do too much or simply don’t like our methods; many others think we don’t do enough and want to see more. We only begin to understand why traffic enforcement generates such controversy when we look at things in their simplest terms. Traffic enforcement is nothing more than holding people responsible for their actions. Being held responsible can be an unpleasant experience for people who are unfamiliar with the concept of responsibility in their lives.
Our police officers patrol the streets of Naperville and, more often than not, unsafe drivers find them. Speeders, drunk drivers, people disregarding traffic signals, driving recklessly, carelessly, or sometimes just in a hurry — each and every one of them chipping away at an environment of safety for you, your loved ones, and themselves — these motorists find our police officers and our officers let them know safety is a priority for the residents and business owners of the city of Naperville. We express this through strict enforcement of the rules of the road.
We are not judges, however. We are merely the reporters of fact. We document the actions of these unsafe drivers through traffic citations, traffic crash reports and DUI arrest reports. We later bring this documentation and our sworn testimony before members of the judicial system who make a determination as to the guilt or innocence of the errant driver and set penalties in accordance with state laws. That is the legal system. We didn’t invent it, and we don’t control it. For those exact reasons, the system works.
Clearly the job of holding people responsible for their unsafe driving habits is not a popular position in many circles, so I’ll briefly mention some things that traffic enforcement in Naperville certainly is not.
Traffic enforcement is not a revenue stream for the Naperville Police Department, and what little revenue it returns to the city of Naperville does not merit further discussion. It simply does not influence or impact our operations in any way. Nor are our traffic enforcement policies a game to be debated in public venues with DUI defense attorneys who would rather misstate facts and publicly challenge our methods and our dedication to safety than discuss the reality of DUI adjudication. We are pleased to note that DUI defense attorneys do not set policy for the law enforcement community.
Traffic enforcement is not something we relish or take pleasure in. It is our job. It is our sworn duty to uphold the laws of this state and ensure the safety of the people that we represent, and we take our duties very seriously. We hope you take your duties as a motorist seriously as well.
Drive safely, drive courteously, drive sober, and buckle up throughout the holiday season and throughout the year.
Naperville Police Chief David Dial’s column is published every other Monday.