Fast drivers and school zones don't mix. That's why Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Speed Watch volunteers took to the roads during the first weeks of school.
With school being out for so long, it's an opportunity to remind drivers that school is in and they have to slow down," says City of Vernon crime prevention co-ordinator Regan Borisenko, who works closely with the RCMP detachment and manages the volunteers.
Trained volunteers use digital speed reader boards and a radar antenna unit to concentrate on areas where speeding is a major hazard. The uniformed volunteers take note of the passing vehicles' speed and provide the RCMP with a report after each shift.
The Speed Watch Program enhances road safety and educates drivers," says Borisenko. "
You get an immediate change in the behaviour of drivers when they see this set up."
Donna Kaufmann, who has volunteered with the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP for four years, is leading this year's back-to-school Speed Watch operations and says the public appreciates the program.
A lot of children are walking to school and we want everyone to be safe," says Kaufmann. "
People see us out there and we get a lot of nice hand gestures and positive feedback."
While an RCMP officer will occasionally be waiting near the Speed Watch site for drivers who don't slow down, the program is focused more on education than enforcement.
It's rewarding for our volunteers who see the difference they're making when the cars slow down," says Borisenko.
The data the volunteers collect can help the local RCMP determine areas where speeding and dangerous driving is more common and adjust their patrols accordingly.
It's great that that information gets back to us because we can't be everywhere all the time," says Cst. Chris Terleski, who worked with the Speed Watch volunteers while on patrol before starting as the detachment's media relations officer in September.
The volunteers focus on school zones during the week. On Saturdays, they head to high-traffic roads.
The locations are thoughtfully chosen and it's typically a place where people may need a reminder to slow down and watch their surroundings," says Terleski.
The RCMP volunteers in Vernon receive both classroom and practical training and help act as extra eyes on the street. Alongside Speed Watch, they also help with nighttime patrols, large events, vessel safety checks and emergency services operations.
The City of Vernon RCMP volunteers are amazing. They volunteer their time to support the police and our community, which is critical," says Terleski.