Feature Story Friday, September 13, 2013
More Speed Watch volunteers will be on the streets this fall
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz tries out a radar gun at Tyson Elementary School on Monday. Below, Tyson Elementary School Principal Leslie Waddington shares some laughs with Safety Bear and the school mascot.
he signs say “School Zone 30km/h”, but some drivers don't pay attention and put kids at risk. This fall, drivers are going to be seeing more Mounties and more Chilliwack Speed Watch volunteers monitoring traffic in school zones.
City officials, Safer City staff, Chilliwack RCMP members and volunteers from Speed Watch set up shop outside of Tyson Elementary bright and early last Monday as a very visible reminder that the community isn’t going to tolerate speeding in school zones.
Drivers caught barreling through a school zone, between the hours of 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, face a fine from $196 to $483, 3 to 6 demerit points on their licence and their vehicle is impounded for seven days. That means towing and storage costs as well.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz was on hand and took a whirl with the radar gun. Later she told the Voice that the majority of people don’t mean to speed, but everyone just wants a safe school season.
“But sometimes they get into really bad habits I think, and they get in a hurry, and they forget that there are little kids on the road and we need to be aware,” she said. “If they ignore Speed Watch, there are other consequences as well and so the fines that the RCMP gives them are really poignant reminders that little kids lives matter and they're worth the amount of the ticket.”
Leslie Waddington, Tyson Elementary School Principal, was glad to see Speed Watch at her school.
“I think it's fabulous and we're excited to just give a friendly reminder to our community and our neighbours who are driving by, to slow down and keep it safe for our kids,” she said.
Tyson Elementary is in a high density area and so a lot of the students walk to and from school.
Insp. Deanne Burleigh thanks a Speed Watch volunteer Monday. Below, Chilliwack Councillor Stewart McLean takes a turn at checking vehicle speeds.
“We're a non-bussed school and we have a lot of kids on the sidewalks and crossing the street, so we'd like to keep the reminder out there,” Waddington said.
She adds that the parking lot at the school is busy and they remind parents of that, such as in their latest newsletter.
Chilliwack Speed Watch is an ICBC driver education and awareness campaign staffed by volunteers who monitor traffic speeds using portable radar equipment and digital reader boards that show a driver their speed on the spot.
Every car is counted with hand clickers and the information is shared with ICBC, so if any particular area has a lot of speeders in it, police can choose to step up enforcement there.
Speed Watch hours vary and can be any time of the day from 9 am to 6 pm.
Volunteer Fred McMurr says that ideally they’d like an officer wherever they set up the radar, but that can’t always happen.
If someone is traveling 16 km/h over the posted speed limit volunteers will record the vehicle’s plate number and other pertinent details such as time and place, and send them a warning letter.
“We've had speeds up to 80 km/h, and way over that with 111 km/h in a 60 km/h zone,” he said.
“ICBC likes to see how many vehicles have gone by our site and we also try to keep score on those vehicles that are 10 km/h or over and they become part of ICBC stats,” said McMurr. “It gives kind of an earmark as to how your traffic is travelling in the area, not just necessarily in school zones, but in any area or any speed zone.”
Last year, Speed Watch volunteers spent 62.5 hours at 18 school locations and found that 146 out of 12,206 vehicles were speeding in a school zone resulting in 242 tickets or warnings issued via letter mail.
Volunteer Lauraine Morrison was with Speed Watch in Williams Lake for over a decade before moving to Chilliwack and taking up with the local group working out of the Community Crime Prevention office on Wellington Ave.
Morrison loves the working relationship she has with the RCMP and says it’s a lot better in Chilliwack than in Williams Lake because here, Mounties take more time to work with the volunteers and write tickets.
Drivers can become complacent if no tickets are handed out.
"They were always too busy to be out with us," she said adding, "We did school zones and we did a lot of highway work there."
There’s also the Three Strike Campaign where drivers have chances to take the pedal from the medal before any coupons are handed out.
RCMP Doug Kivinen said the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment sends out enough warning letters each month that if they were tickets, would amount to almost $20,000.
“We have a sign first, then there's the actual Speed Watch sign and if you're still speeding, we have third radar down the road which is a police officer,” he said.
Chilliwack Speed Watch has 12 members with another 8 currently in training.
For more information and volunteering opportunities, visit Chilliwack Crime Prevention Services at www.cps-chilliwack.ca/program/3
See more photos below.
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