Traffic blitz a sober reminder to South Okanagan drivers

“Disturbing” is how one veteran RCMP officer described the results of the two-day, high-volume traffic blitz.

RCMP and Ministry of Transporation Commercial Vehicle and Safety Enforcement officers check vehicles at the weigh station on HIghway 97 on June 20 during the second of a two-day

RCMP and Ministry of Transporation Commercial Vehicle and Safety Enforcement officers check vehicles at the weigh station on HIghway 97 on June 20 during the second of a two-day

“Disturbing” is how one veteran RCMP officer described the results of the two-day, weekend, high-volume traffic blitz in the Penticton area.

“Surprised by the numbers? Yes and no, we haven’t firmed up the number of vehicles towed but it looks like it was in the neighbourhood of 150 and that’s a lot,” said Sgt. Harold Hallet of the South Okanagan Traffic Services Unit in Keremeos. “I would describe it as very successful, but it depends on your point of view. By these numbers there’s obviously a need to do it more often.”

Most of the effort was concentrated at the commercial weigh scales at the intersection of Highway 97 and Highway 3A where the main check station was set up June 19 and 20.

In total there were 55 matters dealt with by the RCMP members with the assistance of the Southeast District Traffic Services and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Area Vehicle Inspectors. The vast majority related to impaired driving, but also included; recovery of stolen property, drug and liquor seizures, prohibited driving, excessive speed and vehicle fitness. Particularly concerning to Hallet was the fact both excessive speeding cases involved motorcycles operated by middle aged men.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a while now and both of these men were going 50 to 60 kilometres in excess of the speed limit,” said Hallet.

He pointed out in the last two months in the South Okanagan there has been seven serious motorcycle crashes resulting in one fatality and six people suffering life-threatening injuries. All but one of those accident involved middle-aged, male operators.

Both of the men caught recently were on the highway and had their motorcycles impounded for seven days in addition to the speeding tickets they received.

Approximately 150 motorcycles were checked during the two days which included a safety discussion with accredited RCMP motorcycle instructors.

The most visual aspect of the blitz was the large purple vehicle that is the RCMP E Division Mobile Road Safety Unit, also known as Alexa’s Bus in memory of Alexa Middelaer, a young girl killed by a drunk driver in Delta in 2008. The self-contained vehicle can act as a mobile command post or police office. It is equipped with intoximeters (breathalyzers), temporary holding cells, a dark room enabling drug recognition experts to conduct eye examinations during their evaluations. This and other equipment enable peace officers to process impaired drivers the same as they would at a detachment office.

Impaired driving incidents and charges from the two days included one criminal code impaired, 15, 90-day roadside prohibitions, three, three-day prohibitions, one, 90-day administrative driving prohibition and four, 24-hour prohibitions.

Other matters included the seizure of three kilograms of marijuana with a charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking, one possession of cocaine charge, six drug seizures of drugs without charges, six liquor seizures, nine driving while prohibited, two notices of driving prohibitions served, the recovery of two stolen vehicles and three possession of stolen property charges.

“I think overall it went very well, we certainly had lots of good feedback from the public, especially as far as don’t drink and drive aspect of it,” said Hallet.

In total, 25 RCMP officers participated in the road checks which took place at a number of other locations.

“It’s encouraging to see the alcohol numbers down, but it is disturbing to see the other numbers up,” said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko of the Penticton traffic services. “Lots of vehicles checked and while you can’t do it every week but I think you roll the dice on it every once in awhile and it wakes people up a little bit.

“I hope it sets kind of a tone for summer and I’d like to see it done again.”