RCMP and other related groups in the Cowichan Valley are hoping that a major traffic initiative on the Trans-Canada Highway through Duncan last Thursday got drivers thinking about their habits behind the wheel.
The Three Strikes Campaign, part of a province-wide program, brought together the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, ICBC, South Island Traffic Services, Municipal Traffic Services, Community Policing volunteers and auxiliary constables to monitor the highway for two hours last Thursday. In that short time, 8,450 vehicles were counted, with 2,055 going 10km/h or more over the speed limit.
The top speed northbound coming into the 60km/h zone at Allenby Road was 96km/h, and the top speed southbound, coming into the 50km/h zone was 78km/h. South Island Traffic Services handed out 12 infraction tickets, and Cpl. Jon Stuart expected that Municipal Traffic Services had a similar number.
"It’s a safe guesstimate to say they handed out 15 infractions," said Stuart, who was still awaiting statistics from that agency. Infractions that were targeted by officers included speed, seat belts and cell-phone use.
"For a two-hour stretch, I’d say that’s a pretty good number," Stuart said. "It’s not extreme." As drivers approached the area where police were set up, they first encountered a standard speed limit sign, then the Community Policing speed reader board.
Finally the police themselves were the last stop.
Anyone who didn’t slow down after the first two opportunities was in line for a ticket.
"It tends to slow people down," Stuart said. "That’s why we call it ‘Three Strikes.’ It brings attention to it. The program tends to bring ticket numbers down because you don’t have that element of surprise."
Education, more than enforcement, is the goal of the Three Strikes program, Stuart emphasized.
The program runs four or five times a year, including two or three times over the summer months. Reception tends to be positive, according to Stuart.
"People like to see us out there, and they like to see us deal with speeders," he explained.
Beyond speed, the program also hoped to remind drivers to be aware of their surroundings.
"There are many hazards when driving," Stuart said. "By driving defensively, slowing down, maintaining your distance, and being aware of other users such as motorcyclists, pedestrians or cyclists, you will have a greater chance of arriving safely and without incident."
Kate Woochuk, ICBC road safety coordinator for the Cowichan Valley, agreed.
"Failing to yield may seem harmless, but it’s a high-risk driving behaviour that leads to crashes," she said. "Every day there are many situations where you need to yield to another vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist, so slow down and think about it. Don’t underestimate the time and space required to proceed safely."