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Local Column

Citizens Academy discusses crashes and DUIs

Two years ago I began writing what was supposed to be a series of articles coming from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Citizens Academy. Once a week we met and I wrote my first-person account of what I learned. Then, halfway through the program, I left the Daily Chronicle to work for another Shaw Media newspaper and never finished.

I was disappointed. We did simulated traffic stops, toured the new jail before it was completed, saw the shooting range and learned about police work in general. As someone who has spent more time watching Law and Order and Die Hard movies than talking to real police officers, the course brought a new perspective to work that many people think they understand but few do.

Now that I'm back, Deputy Sarah Frazier kindly invited me to finish the program so that I could graduate. While I'm certainly not cut out for police work – the hours are longer than a newspaper editor's and require even more attention to detail – I am especially qualified to sit on my couch, watch a crime drama and say to no one in particular "That's not how it's done. This show is unrealistic."

On Thursday, the day after a crash took the life of a Kishwaukee College student, the class learned about crash investigations and DUIs. It was not the happiest of topics, but it reminded me of something a retired police chief from central Illinois told me once: police officers are often dealing with people having the worst day of their life. A bad accident at a busy intersection will often be one of those days for the people involved.

By far the intersection in Dekalb County with the most crashes is at Peace Road and Route 64. The intersection had 44 crashes in 2018, the most recent year for numbers available.

Route 23 and Perry Road came in second with 14 crashes. Near the Daily Chronicle offices, Peace and Barber Greene roads intersection had nine crashes in 2018, which Lt. Jim Burgh said was low compared to other years for that location.

After the crash is when investigators get to work. Law enforcement on the scene needs to get help for any injured, keep people safe, manage traffic flow on the road and navigate any hazards such as downed power lines.

Never go near downed powerlines. All it takes is one touch and you can be killed in an instant. Always wait for the ComEd to come and shut the power off.

Investigators have a number of clues they can use to learn the story of the crash. They look at marks in the road, gouges at the point of impact when one vehicle forces the other down and it carves a gash out of the road surface. They can look at skidmarks to see who braked and when. They can look at fluid to follow the path of a vehicle after a crash.

Alcohol is a factor in 30% of crashes nationwide, and Lt. Jim Burgh said DeKalb County is probably about same. He said at a recent training he and other officers went to learn about DUI stops and the changes coming now that marijuana is legal in Illinois.

The presenter said to think of people driving drunk on the road as murders in progress, Burgh said.

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