SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Sgt. Jeff Royer is going to creative lengths to get Springfield drivers to slow down. Even if it means getting a little corny.
“Yes, it’s stupid. … But it gets the point across,” Royer said about his most recent sign near a school zone that reads ‘Speeders did bad in skool.’
The sign is one of many whimsical electronic messages posted in high volume areas as part of a recent effort by Springfield Police Department to deter speeding.
Royer leads the initiative and is able to update the sign whenever he wants from his computer or even his phone, the State Journal-Register reported.
He often runs the messages, which range from “Buckle up, buttercup” to “Warning: Slow adults crossing” by his co-workers and tested the sign out for a few weeks in the back alley behind the SPD station when he first got it in July, he said.
“I was trying to think of different ways that we could get information out and maybe impact some of the issues that we’re dealing with, so I thought, ‘If I had a sign that I could put in the areas where the problem is and then obviously make the signs specific to that area and that issue, then I can maybe start getting the point across,’” Royer said.
He continued, “I just didn’t think the threats — that the old cliché ‘Click It or Ticket’ stuff was going to do it, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just start coming up with some different signage and some different messages and try to get the message out there.’”
Royer said the signs has already generated more attention than he anticipated and was even mentioned by Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso at a recent city council meeting.
“I like the signs,” DiCenso said in an interview. “I think they’re clever and funny. But I would like to see additional enforcement, even more. There used to be certain parts of Springfield that you could drive by and know there would be a police officer there and you would slow down. And we just don’t have that anymore.”
DiCenso and Royer both noted that SPD is left to operate with a much smaller staff than previous years, limiting its ability to properly enforce speed laws in Springfield.
“In my section, I have a lot less officers than what used to be assigned to traffic,” said Royer, who serves as SPD’s traffic services supervisor. “And so that’s the point of the sign and the speed trailers.”
He continued, saying that the technology and the signs serve as a supplement to remind drivers to slow down in areas where police officers cannot be stationed 24/7.
His department has recently been focusing intersections that Royer said tend to have a higher accident rate or are more prone to fatal accidents including areas near Washington Park, MacArthur Boulevard and Lawrence Avenue and Dirksen Parkway and Sangamon Avenue.
“That stretch of MacArthur is just really bad,” DiCenso said about that stretch of the road near its intersection with Lawrence Avenue. “I’m not sure why the concept of a pedestrian crossing is so difficult. You know, we have many pedestrian crossings around the city and this is the busiest one. And I just don’t understand why we can’t make it more clear that this is place where pedestrians cross the street, often with young children, often with pets.”
She referenced a recent hit-and-run involving a pedestrian who was hit while she was walking her dog on Aug. 13 at the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Fayette Avenue. She survived, but the dog was also hit by the car and died.
“The signs went up and someone still got hit and a dog was still killed. So, I think a stronger effort needs to be made,” DiCenso said. “But in the same vein, I realize that speeding is a low priority given the other violent crimes going on across the city.”
Though he recognized SPD doesn’t have the bodies to constantly monitor high-traffic intersections, Royer said he’s focused on one high-traffic intersection a week to monitor and analyze different factors that contribute to these accidents, such as someone running a red light or driving while attempting to use a cell phone.
“Hopefully if we can curb those (habits), then we can cut down the fatalities and the injuries in these accidents,” Royer said. “But again, that’s the point of the sign is, ‘Hey, we’re putting this on you. This is your responsibility to be safe.’”