Dedicated Malahat police unit needed but ‘unrealistic:’ RCMP

Province will be asked for additional police resources for the Island, which could boost police numbers on the Malahat

Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc was patrolling the Malahat Drive portion of the Trans-Canada Highway last summer when a call came in over the radio that shocked him.

Another officer had clocked a vehicle travelling at 180 km/h. Despite their efforts, police weren’t able to nab the hazardous driver.

“If something does happen … how long is it going to take them to stop? Is there something wrong with them? Are they drunk? Are they high? Are there mental health issues?” asked LeBlanc, a Victoria police officer with the Capital Regional District’s Integrated Road Safety Unit.

“Why are they endangering the public? At a certain point we’re just at a loss for an explanation.”

He makes a strong case for the need for a police road safety unit dedicated to enforcing the rules of the road along the Malahat Drive, a notorious 24-kilometre stretch, between Langford and Mill Bay.

That’s one of the recommendations that came out of last summer’s two-month Making the Malahat Safer campaign. Those findings were released Wednesday.

From July 6 to Sept. 7, officers from the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit, the Saanich Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit and several RCMP detachments and units, including South Island Traffic Services and West Shore RCMP officers, kept up a constant vigil along the Malahat.

About 22,000 vehicles travel the Malahat daily, climbing to about 36,000 a day in the summer months.

The goal was to reduce the number of vehicle crashes by 25 per cent, prevent fatalities and serious injury and curb overall speed.

Police say their efforts worked – 35 impaired drivers were taken off the road, and risky driving behaviour was curbed – but that it would be “unrealistic” to ask for a 15-member dedicated Malahat patrol unit that would cost $1 million a year, said Insp. Ray Fast, head of the RCMP’s Island District Traffic Services.

But the province will be asked for additional police resources for the Island, which, in part, could boost police numbers on the Malahat, Fast said.

A feasibility study would be needed to look at the value of placing photo radar equipment, for example, on the highway.

Some personnel would be needed to man the technology.

“However, it is significantly less (cost) than the amount of resources used to deploy a full-time traffic unit,” Fast said.

 

By the numbers

Annual Malahat crash stats:

Total collisions: an average of 58.

Forty-four per cent of these result in injury.

Seventy-five per cent of these lead to road closures.

Fatalities: between two and four.

 

 

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