Sheriff targets distracted drivers

April 13, 2019

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County’s sheriff is sending deputies in undercover cars to catch distracted drivers — in other words, those who are texting or talking on their phones.

“Part of the problem with catching distracted drivers is that when you are talking on your phone and see a marked squad car, you move your phone down. That’s human nature,” Sheriff Mike Downey told the county board’s criminal justice committee this week. “It’s difficult to catch distracted driving in marked cars.”

The goal, he said, is to keep the driving public safe, not to make money from citations.

The sheriff’s office also is joining the statewide law enforcement campaign, “Slow down, move over.” This is to encourage motorists to move to the next lane when officers are stopping drivers on the side — a major problem in recent months, resulting in state troopers’ deaths.

“This is big news. Everyone knows about it. Yet, we were out there 20 minutes and got three people,” the sheriff said. “One lady who got a citation said, ‘I’ll just get an attorney and get out of this.’”

In other business:

• Fatalities in car accidents are up countywide, six so far this year, compared with nine in all of 2018, Downey said.

“As much as we have increased our traffic control, we can’t be everywhere. People need to slow down and be careful,” the sheriff said.

• The River Valley Metro Mass Transit District donated two used buses for the sheriff’s office to transport inmates, Downey said. The county is adding security infrastructure to the bus; Metro will continue to maintain it. “It’ll be for a cost, but probably less than other places locally. Metro maintains those buses very well.”

• Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, inspected the county jail recently, the sheriff reported. It was the third such inspection. “They get better every time,” Downey said. The ICE inspection not only benefits the immigrants in the jail, but also local and other federal inmates, he said.