Drivers would be wise to slow down when driving on Desplaines Avenue, Wednesday, Aug 24. The Forest Park Police Department will be conducting a speed-enforcement detail on the stretch of Desplaines Avenue, between Roosevelt and Cermak roads, that borders the Waldheim cemeteries. The detail will start at 7 a.m. and last all day, police said.

Officer Tom J. Hall, 17-year veteran, will coordinate enforcement. Roughly 10 officers will be watching for speeders, including squad cars and motorcycle units who will stop violators to issue citations, and an undercover officer who will be identifying speed violations.

The enforcement was organized as part of the police department’s participation in the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge, a statewide event coordinated by the traffic committee of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. The event began in 2007 to challenge police departments and other law enforcement agencies to think up unique ways to deal with traffic-safety problems in their areas.  It is supported by a grant from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as private funding.

At the end of the year, the department will rate the effectiveness of its efforts to improve traffic safety and submit their results to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. It will then be judged on the results by the organization, and departments with the best performance will be recognized as the winners.

This particular stretch of Desplaines Avenue was chosen because, according to the police department’s analysis of traffic-accident data, it is especially prone to traffic-related injuries.  According to Hall, this is due to the lack of intersections on the two-lane street, allowing drivers to build up speed on a long straightaway. “It’s an easy place to go too fast,” he said.

As manager of the Waldheim Cemetery, David Penzell has witnessed a host of other traffic problems plaguing the street.  While there aren’t any intersections with stoplights, he points out that there are driveways coming out of the cemetery with visitors and cemetery vehicles, pedestrians, and a variety of distractions along the road.

In addition to that, he said, drivers sometimes try to pass slower vehicles in the right lane, not realizing that there’s a car parked on the curb, or drivers going too fast to react when someone brakes to turn into the cemetery entrance.

Penzell estimates six to eight wrecks a year happen around the cemetery.

“Sometimes,” he said, “I’m concerned we’ll have a customer sooner than I’d like to.”

As for the effectiveness of such enforcements, Officer Hall said that most of the morning traffic through the area consists of drivers who pass through there every day. When the drivers see the officers cracking down on speeders as part of the detail, he believes it will stick in the back of their minds and deter them from going too fast.

Penzell agrees that it will help – but only for a period of time. “After people see an accident on the road, they tend to go a lot slower,” he said. “If you pass by a driver getting a ticket or see a radar gun pointed at you, you tend to go slower. But, eventually you go back.”