Sheriffs, Mounties will continue to focus on traffic offenders jointly

Combining the province’s two most visible police forces to combat traffic problems has been going so well that the forces will remain joined even though a pilot project has ended.

Combining the province’s two most visible police forces to combat traffic problems has been going so well that the forces will remain joined even though a pilot project has ended.

Insp. James Stiles, officer in charge of Alberta’s RCMP traffic services, said that a six-month pilot project testing various models of traffic enforcement has ended but the forces won’t be broken up just yet.

The RCMP and Alberta Sheriff’s Department have patrolled all roads as part of the provincewide pilot project.

Stiles said it didn’t make sense to do anything but keep them together until a decision is made about their future.

The Olds area is one four in which RCMP and sheriffs work under a single command. The other projects are in Airdrie, Wetaskiwin and Whitecourt.

“It’s been going great.

“On the road, the RCMP members and sheriff’s members have performed well together,” Stiles said.

“Their professional relationship has been fantastic and I don’t use that word very often.”

Although the officers came from different organizations, they have “knit together well.”

He said at the end of the project, an independent body will analyze the attributes and shortcomings of the four models and develop a model that could be implemented provincewide. The final product could be a combination of all or some of the models.

Stiles said the officers complement one another.

Sheriffs carry firearms and can execute criminal warrants, but as peace officers their mandate is traffic enforcement rather than Criminal Code investigations.

If RCMP are required for a suspected impaired driver, for example , they are called.

Stiles said in the team approach, the sheriffs have a designated RCMP to call to investigate a possible Criminal Code violation.

Normally they call to RCMP would be put on a priority list compared with other calls the detachment had received.

There are about 105 sheriffs patrolling Alberta’s highways.

The project is all about finding a way to reduce collisions, Stiles said.

Traffic deaths decreased 10.5 per cent to 410 in 2008 from the all-time high of 458 in 2007. The number of traffic injuries decreased 10.3 per cent during the past year from 24,530 injuries in 2007 to 22,015 in 2008. However, the number of traffic collisions increased 2.7 per cent from 153,901 collisions in 2007 to 158,055 in 2008.

More than 80 per cent of the deaths occurred in rural areas.

Stiles said the majority of crashes and deaths are preventable because they are due to poor driving and drinking and driving.

He also said more than a third of the deaths could have been prevented if a seatbelt had been worn.

Drivers should be a little more concerned this fall since August, September and October are the months in which the most deaths occur.

Stiles said the officers complement one another.

Other traffic observations compiled from 2008 statistics indicate death and injury rates were highest for persons between the ages of 15 and 24.

Male drivers between the ages of 18 and 19 had the highest rate of all drivers involved in casualty collisions.

Following too closely, running off the road and left turn across path were the most frequently identified improper driver actions contributing to casualty collisions.

Almost one-quarter or 22.5 per cent of drivers involved in fatal collisions had consumed alcohol prior to the crash.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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