Orland Park Police Receive Statewide Honor for Combatting Distracted Driving

Orland Park Police Receive Statewide Honor for Combatting Distracted Driving
Posted on 07/19/2017

The Orland Park Police Department's mission to minimize distracted driving has earned the agency a statewide honor. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Commission lauded the village for its "outstanding performance and dedication during the inaugural year of Illinois Distracted Driving Week," April 24 to 28, 2017.

Charlene Sligting-Yorke, AAA Auto Group spokesperson and a member of the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge Board, attended the July 17 meeting of the Orland Park Board of Trustees to praise the department's efforts to minimize distracted driving.

"We are very proud of all that the Orland Park Police Department does to keep our community safe," said Mayor Keith Pekau. "Their efforts being recognized on the state level among agencies across Illinois is a credit to the men and women of the department."

Texting is the most alarming distraction as sending or reading a text takes the driver's eyes off of the road for five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that's equivalent to driving the length of entire football field with closed eyes.

"Distracted driving is a significant problem on our roadways that can only be solved with education, enforcement and drivers committing to driving responsibly and obeying the laws," Sligting-Yorke said. "Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, along with enforcement campaigns such as this one, help put a renewed focus on distracted driving and will hopefully start to change the behaviors of Illinois motorists."

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's recent Traffic Safety Culture Index, 81 percent of drivers say texting while driving is a very serious threat, yet nearly half (40 percent) report having texted while driving in the last 30 days.

Divided according to age, drivers age 19-24 were 1.6 times as likely as all drivers to report having read a text message or email while driving in the last 30 days. (66.1 percent vs 40.2 percent). Drivers ages 19-24 were nearly twice as likely as all drivers to report having typed or sent a text message or email while driving (59.3 percent vs 31.4 percent)

"I say it all the time and I'll say it again," said Trustee Dan Calandriello, chair of the village's Public Safety Committee. "We have the best police department in the state and I believe, in the country. I know how hard the Orland Park police work to keep everyone safe and it's especially nice when outside agencies recognize their efforts."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2015, nearly 3500 people were killed and nearly 400,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.

"The men and women of the Orland Park Police Department take their responsibility very seriously and do all that they can to protect everyone in the community," said Police Chief Tim McCarthy. "We want everyone traveling in and through Orland Park to be safe and free from the tragedies that result from distracted driving."

Orland Park was lauded for its enforcement and public education efforts with 70 warning tickets issued during a one month period with 275 citations written.

Orland Park Police Lieutenant Tom Hottinger oversees the department's traffic safety division and credited the patrol officers for their efforts to keep streets safer.

"We were honored to be presented the award at village board meeting." Hottinger said. "The three officers who wrote the most tickets during the challenge joined us as well --- Brandon Eppolito, William Fitzgibbon and Mark Kenn --- so they know that their efforts to keep all motorists safe are very much appreciated."

Other recognized departments include the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department and the Illinois State Police as well as the departments from Joliet, Mattoon, Mount Vernon, Normal, Pekin, Plainfield and Rock Island.