A battalion of law enforcement officers blocked traffic on Highway 19 north of Qualicum Beach for nearly six hours last Thursday, pulling motorists over and checking vehicles.
But it wasn’t a manhunt for an escaped felon or kidnap victim — just the annual winter driving safety check.
“We’re looking at things like windshields, proper lighting, licensing and especially winter tires, to ensure motorists are able to safely drive in winter road conditions,” said Cpl. Mike Elston, Operations NCO for Central Vancouver Island Traffic Services (CVITS).
A combination of CVITS members, Oceanside RCMP, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations officers, ICBC personnel, Emcon flaggers and even an RCMP Island District canine unit staffed the highway checkpoint, in the southbound lanes of Highway 19 just north of Horne Lake Road, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. During that time, officers issued 17 notices regarding deficiencies found on vehicles.
In addition, however, police wrote 18 violation tickets for “a variety of offences” involving either drivers or their vehicles, Elston said. They included one drug/vehicle seizure, one 24-hour driving suspension for drug use and one suspended driver.
Oh, and they also reunited a dog, which wandered into the roadside checkpoint from the nearby bushes, with its owner, a Spider Lake-area resident who reported the dog had run away on Halloween night.
“When you’re doing community policing you can never just do one thing,” Elston said. “This is the fourth year we’ve done this here.”
“In the past we’ve gotten drugs, a driver with a poached deer, impaired drivers. We had one guy drive right up smoking marijuana in a vaporizer.”
Vehicles — and drivers — deemed unfit to go on are separated. A tow truck is provided for the former and a ride in an RCMP vehicle for the latter.
In some cases, Elston said, notices can be addressed on the spot.
“We had one guy here today who changed his tire right here, because he actually was right down to the cord showing through,” Elston said.
“That wasn’t going to go anywhere in the condition it was in.”
Caroline Robinson of ICBC handed out packages with a small windshield ice scraper, a tire tread depth gauge and a sheet of winter driving tips.
“The drivers have been very understanding,” she said.
“We can have beautiful winters here on the Island, but we can also get some severe winter driving conditions. It’s all about educating people on preparing themselves and their vehicles for those winter trips.”
The missing dog, a six-month-old blue heeler, emerged from the bush just as a forestry officer was directing a car to pull over for a safety check.
The officer radioed his dispatcher, who in turn called Oceanside SPCA.
“We had gotten a call from the owner that this dog had gone missing on Halloween,” said Terry Hocking of SPCA.
“We were able to get them back together, so it was a happy ending all around.”