Adam Kveton Photo                                Mike Garland, program administrator for the local Speed Watch group, centre, shows new recruits how to opperate one of their digital signs during a free training course on Saturday, March 2

Adam Kveton Photo Mike Garland, program administrator for the local Speed Watch group, centre, shows new recruits how to opperate one of their digital signs during a free training course on Saturday, March 2

Teaching, not trapping, says Parksville, Qualicum Beach Speed Watch instructor

New recruits learn the ropes at Speed Watch training day

The program administrator for Speed Watch had a pretty clear message for new recruits on Saturday, March 25:

“This is not about catching speeders, it’s not about trapping speeders,” said Mike Garland with Oceanside Community Safety. “This is about educating the public.”

Garland was the instructor for nine attendees of the free Speed Watch course on Saturday in Parksville. The program has volunteers set up digital signs on the side of roads which display how fast drivers are going. The volunteers then record the speeds of passing traffic. They are usually set up at areas with high crash rates. Those numbers then go off to RCMP and ICBC, informing enforcement activities, city infrastructure and insurance rates.

While some volunteers might want to encourage drivers to slow down with gestures, shouts, or even try to pull them over, Garland was quick to squash that idea.

“Speed Watch is not vigilantism,” he said. In fact, the speed a person is going isn’t the issue — it’s their ability to stop quickly, he explained. The program, and the speed display signs, are meant to let people know how far above the speed limit they are travelling, and otherwise educate them on the need to follow speed signs.

But that doesn’t include having arguments with motorists, or distracting them at all while they’re driving.

Garland spent a fair portion of the course focusing on the need for volunteers to keep themselves safe, to not be confrontational and function only as the eyes and ears of the RCMP and ICBC.

“I would love to make people more aware and tell them,” said Natasha Young, who attended the course, “but I do find when you do that, they don’t always listen.

“I think this is a way better way to make (drivers) aware without you actually having to directly speak to them… I’ve done it once and I was amazed at the difference and the positive response we got from people in slowing down.”

Indeed, Garland said volunteers have been offered coffee and snacks by appreciative residents and even tourists.

Young said she chose to join Speed Watch to do her part in the community, and because she’s interested in joining the RCMP.

Susan Lanziner, another attendee, asked if Speed Watch volunteers could also take down the licence plate of speeders, along with other information, as she did while participating in a Speed Watch program in Vancouver.

The idea there is to pass the licence plate onto RCMP who can issue the owner of the vehicle a letter informing them they were found speeding.

“It’s not a ticket or anything, but just to let them know that, in that area, they were speeding,” she said.

Cpl. Jesse Foreman with the Oceanside RCMP detachment said, with staffing levels somewhat higher than before, the detachment might consider that kind of action.

While Garland said a positive result of the Speed Watch program is watching a speeder slow down to the speed limit as they approach the digital sign, Lanziner said she’s seen them speed right back up again.

“It’s almost like a slap in our face. That’s what I feel,” she said.

Lanziner said she decided to join Speed Watch again to do her part, and because she said she sees a speeding problem in the area, including around play areas and school zones.

“We very much value the volunteers at Speed Watch,” said Foreman. “They are out here giving their time in high-crash locations and zones where people are speeding, as well as areas where the public has complained about speeding problems. We take this information that they gather, all the statistics, and decide whether it’s a spot that needs actual enforcement. So it’s very useful for us so we don’t send police officers to the wrong spots to catch speeders or to give the public warnings.”