On the south side of the Fraser River, Delta Chief of Police Neil Dubord is well-known for his community policing approach, and for the motto of the Delta Police Force-“No Call Too Small”. There have been devastating fatalities from road violence in Delta. In Tsawwassen with a population of just over 20,000 two separate fatalities of elderly pedestrians occurred on the commercial well-lit, well used 56th Street. Both of these pedestrians were lawfully crossing with the walk signal in well-lit intersections. Both of these pedestrians were mowed down by vehicles making left turns through the crosswalk.
In reviewing the road violence in Delta, the Chief noted that Delta with an overall population of 100,000 people had seven fatal motor vehicle accidents, with eight deaths. As the Chief says “Eight people, young and old, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, whose lives were cut short. The ripple effect of these accidents in our community and within the Delta Police Department is felt for a long time.”
In accident investigation the Police looks at ” road design, weather conditions, impairment, distraction, speed … Our traffic investigators look for root causes in order to focus our prevention efforts on three things: engineering, education and enforcement.” But here is what is profoundly heartbreaking: The Chief reports that “The common thread in the fatal accidents in 2016 was not about road design or engineering; each one had some element of speed and/or distraction. And, most importantly, they were all preventable.”
“Delta is a community that many people drive through to get somewhere. Highways 91, 99, 17, the George Massey Tunnel, the Alex Fraser Bridge, Tsawwassen Mills and the ferry terminal all impact on our community…Enforcement can sometimes give the police a bad rap. Some people see speed traps and think police should be out doing real police work. For those of us that have had to do death notifications, I can tell you that road safety is as real as it gets. And unfortunately, enforcement only carries us so far. There comes a point where all drivers and pedestrians must take responsibility and help.”
Speed reduction, influencing driver behaviour (distraction) and designing roads to slow cars are the three key elements to reducing road violence. I have also suggested that pedestrians take the European approach and wear some type of reflectivity walking in our low light winter evenings as a further preventative precaution. Why? Because until the speed reductions, road design and driver behaviour changes happen it is one more way vulnerable road user can be safer-visible for drivers that are going too fast and not paying attention. Motordom dominance of our streets must change.
Reducing speeds neighbourhood wide to 30 km/h area wide would mean that 90 per cent of vulnerable road users would survive a crash. Delta has the opportunity to do this, making streets without sidewalks safer for all road users, without the cost of expensive infrastructure. We know that driver behaviour and marked inattention must be addressed. We must make road violence a repulsive act, and sentence it appropriately for what it is doing-needlessly maiming and killing the most vulnerable.
For 2017, Chief Dubord says “This leads me to my challenge to you: together, let’s make Delta’s roads the safest in B.C. Put away the distractions, slow down, dress appropriately and pay attention to your surroundings. And hold your family and friends accountable to this too. As a part of the Delta Police Strategic Plan, we have a goal of zero fatal motor vehicle accidents. As we complete the last year of our current plan, I want to accomplish this. With your help, we will.”