With the RCMP’s Air 8 hovering behind

Police recommend dedicated Malahat patrol

Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc was patrolling the Malahat Drive last summer when a call came in over the radio that shocked him.

Sgt. Graeme LeBlanc was patrolling the Malahat Drive last summer when a call came in over the radio that shocked him.

Another officer had clocked a vehicle at 180 kilometres an hour. 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?” said 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.”

It 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 of highway between Langford and Mill Bay.

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

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

An average of 22,000 vehicles travel the Malahat daily, climbing to about 36,000 per day during summer months.

Their goal was to reduce the number of vehicle crashes by 25 per cent, preventing fatalities and serious injury, and to reduce speeding.

Police say their efforts worked — 35 impaired drivers taken off the road, and risky driving behaviour was curbed. But Insp. Ray Fast, head of the RCMP’s Island District Traffic Services, said it would be “unrealistic” to ask for dedicated Malahat patrol unit.

But the RCMP will ask the province 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.

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

Police also identified a need to work with the Ministry of Transportation to create pullouts where police can set up radar traps, in particular on two southbound lane locations between south Shawnigan Lake and Bamberton.

The Malahat Volunteer fire Department has also been lobbying the province to improve safety on the Malahat.

That fire department has called on the Ministry of Transportation to install more median concrete barriers to help prevent often deadly head-on collisions.

Most recently, a Langford motorcyclist died in October and a Port Alberni man died in late December after head-on collisions.





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