In his five years as head of the city RCMP traffic section, Sgt. Bob Bell has seen an immense growth in traffic volume.
The volume translates into congestion at times, as the city attempts to keep traffic flowing smoothly with millions of dollars spent on revamping roads and thoroughfares.
It also results in an increase in work for his 10-officer section in dealing with collisions, Bell said recently as he waited to be called to provincial court to testify at an impaired driving trial.
Final figures aren’t in for 2009 but the collision numbers are expected to be at or near the 5,422 recorded in 2008.
When Bell took the traffic section helm in 2005, there were 3,258 crashes — 2008’s numbers represent an increase of almost 67 per cent from those totals.
He said the fact so many people come into Red Deer on a daily basis to work from surrounding communities has increased traffic volume.
“All those people have business in Red Deer so the city has had to change many intersections like 67th and Gaetz (Avenues) and last year Gaetz and 32nd (Street).”
He also said there are more older drivers retaining their licences and more younger drivers, all adding to the increased volume overall.
“As much as you want people to use public transit, it’s just not as convenient for most working people,” he said.
‘You know we’ve got a rush hour now and it wasn’t that way a few years ago,” he added.
One of the more high-profile traffic section projects is Friday’s Olympic Torch relay, which starts at Red Deer College around 6:15 p.m. and works its way to Westerner Park for a community celebration.
The RCMP will be joined by several other police agencies in providing traffic control and security at every intersection.
The Alberta Sheriff’s Department is sending seven members while four Red Deer County officers will be joined by four City of Red Deer traffic enforcement officers, five auxiliary Mounties and some Mounties from district detachments to assist with control and safety.
Two incidents in Eastern Canada involving people interfering with the torch carriers has heightened vigilance.
“We’ll make sure no one interrupts the convoys or the torch runners, but on the other hand we want the public to have access and come out to watch.”
He said other concerns include that the torch comes through Red Deer on a Friday during a peak traffic hour, and that warm weather is forecast.
Bell will also temporarily lose six of his regular traffic members to duty at the Vancouver Olympics.
They are among about two dozen city officers headed to Vancouver later this month. They will be there until early March.
“There will be an allocation of resources so we will be able to handle any traffic situations,” Bell said.
A 29-year veteran of the force, Bell has spent almost all his time policing in Alberta.
He had some previous experience with traffic in Grande Prairie and about nine months of traffic in Ponoka.
“Most of my career has been with general duty policing,” he said.
Bell said he has no plans to retire yet.
He is married and has a child in high school and one in university.