SPRINGFIELD - Despite possible safety concerns, the Illinois State Police wants to expand its motorcycle patrol unit by up to 50 officers and two instructors sometime after March.
State Police spokesman Rick Hector said Illinois has a handful of motorcycle patrol units in the state right now. The state police currently have 2,314 patrol cars.
"We really do not have an active motorcycle program at this time," Hector said. "It's basically used for the most part for parade type situations, escorts of dignitaries possibly."
He added that they currently are not being used for enforcement activities.
State records outlining the expansion note that the agency is trying to increase the effectiveness and enforcement of the "Fatal Five" violations n speeding, drunken driving, seat belt violations, tailgating and improper lane use.
Hector said the details about the program will be released sometime in March. A price tag for the program was not available.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcycle patrol officers can target aggressive highway driving better than patrol cars because they can easily maneuver through traffic to make a stop.
But Ted Street, state president of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, said safety concerns have typically outweighed that advantage in Illinois.
"It's just not something that seemingly is a tool that is used in Illinois that much," Street said. "With achieving high speeds n people are not seeing and not hearing squad cars, much less motorcycles. The fuel efficiency, maneuverability takes a back seat to officer safety."
Street also said winter weather is a concern.
"It's seasonal," Street said. "It's not difficult to find volunteers, but it's difficult to get a unit set up that has limited exposure, again because it's seasonal"
The NHTSA report states that motorcycle units can be almost entirely ineffective when the weather drops below 35 degrees, and many times the units do not operate at all during winter. It was unclear Monday whether the state police unit will operate year-round.
Street said the costs of setting up an office to use a motorcycle can end up being as much setting up a patrol car, and in some cases it's even more. However, they cannot do as much a patrol car officer can.
"Typically motorcycles apply to the traffic division and they're going to work traffic," Street said.