Alberta Newspaper Group
Put it down then slow it down.
Simple words to live by heading into 2019, at least according to local authorities, which say added focus will be put toward both impaired and speedy drivers.
Sgt. Neil Bailey of the Bow Island and Foremost RCMP detachment says the numbers from 2018 show that of the 1,127 total calls for service, traffic issues reign supreme.
“We have more driving complaints … traffic collisions and violations because we’re on a major highway,” Bailey said. “Whenever you’re on a major highway you’re always going to have a lot of driving complaints. If it was a twin highway it wouldn’t be as bad, but because it’s just two lanes, you have (more issues.)”
The stats show a decrease in calls compared to 2017’s 1,276 but Bailey says both figures fall within the normal range.
“Anywhere between a thousand and 12-hundred calls a year is pretty standard around here.”
All in all, it was a fairly peaceful year within the detachment’s jurisdiction, even ending with “not even a traffic complaint” on New Year’s Eve, which allows all the focus to be put on the 12 months ahead.
With speed and driving in general being such a big issue for RCMP in the area, new equipment will hopefully help slow things down. The detachment recently purchased laser radar, which should put travellers passing through on notice to take it slow through Bow Island.
“It just came in and now our members our trained on it,” Bailey said. “So there is going to be an increase in traffic enforcement and traffic enforcement projects to try to reduce these driving complaint numbers.”
There has also been added training for officers in keeping impaired drivers off the road.
“We’ve had one member recently trained in standardized field sobriety testing, and another member trained on the breathalyzer, so we’re going to be concentrating on impaired driving.”
Coincidentally, that added focus is accompanied by new nationwide legislation that allows police to administer mandatory roadside testing for impaired driving, which fully bypasses an officer’s need to have reasonable suspicion of substance use.
Essentially, where once police required a reason to get drivers to blow into a breathalyzer, they can now issue the test to everyone.
Bailey says it keeps police from profiling certain groups of people, as well as ensuring those who only seem sober aren’t getting past authorities. It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone, he figures, but Bailey believes both police and the public will get used to the new way soon enough and that it will result in fewer impaired drivers.
“My guess is that at first, if members are following (the mandate) and making everybody blow … there is likely to be an increase (in charges).”
He anticipates that transition to be smooth in his jurisdiction, as the community has always embraced the RCMP’s presence .
“This is a great community,” Bailey said. “We seem to be very pro police; we have a good relationship with the Town of Bow Island, with the Village of Foremost and with the County of Forty Mile. We try to keep a good working relationship, where if they identify any issues, we immediately open files — if it’s speeding, or people rolling through a stop sign or issues in school zones — and we try to address it right away.”
While the police are clearly present in order to enforce the law, they are also here to educate the public and help to prevent crime. Bailey hopes a monthly blog in the newspaper can add to that, where he can not only report what types of crimes are occurring in the area, but then provide helpful tips and information that strengthen the public’s ability to prevent becoming a victim.
“We’re always going to be working to help educate the public and give them proactive measures to prevent crime.”