Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol volunteers Christina Marusiak and Pam Leslie receive a bouquet from a visitor to Salmon Arm in appreciation of their Speed Watch at a school zone in September. (Contributed)

More than a third of drivers clocked speed in Salmon Arm school zones

Citizens Patrol carries out three-week Speed Watch program in September

A vehicle gets closer to the yellow-vested volunteers standing at roadside, while the number on the speed-reader board ahead decreases rapidly.

This is a sight that Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol members witness regularly.

With school having started in September, the volunteer group recently conducted 18 school-zone patrols as well as three normal speed zone patrols over three weeks.

Along with recording and tabulating vehicle speed, they looked at factors such as distracted driving. The results showed that of the 5,960 vehicles recorded, 37 per cent or 2,196 vehicles were travelling above the posted limit. That number included eight vehicles going 80 km/h in a 30 km/h school zone.

Three of those vehicles were witnessed by a patrol near Salmon Arm West Elementary, while five were seen by North Canoe Elementary patrols.

Paula Weir, president of Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol and a volunteer for 10 years, said she has observed that young women are the most frequent speeders. Young men, however, are the “most severe” speeders, travelling well above the limit.

Another observation one day during a two-hour period were 18 drivers in Salmon Arm travelling without seat belts.

Under the distracted driving category, there were drivers texting, phoning, eating or drinking, and driving with dogs on their laps.

“Some things kind of seem like common sense but I guess some people don’t see it that way,” Weir remarked.

All of the statistics gathered go to the Salmon Arm RCMP as well as ICBC.

Read more: Drivers speed through Salmon Arm park zone at more than twice limit

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Read more: Community meeting will discuss crime in South Shuswap communities

Stephen Lowry has volunteered with the Salmon Arm organization for four years.

He moved to town with his spouse in 2015 when he drove by a sign at city limits stating the area is protected by Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol. About two weeks later there was a knock on his door. It was two women from citizens patrol who were helping police locate a woman with dementia who had wandered off the property.

“And I thought, ‘Wow, that is pretty neat. There is signage saying they do stuff and they’re doing it,’” Lowry said.

Along with keeping an eye on speeds, Lowry likes to observe licence plates. In B.C., front licence plates are mandatory while in Alberta they are not.

He’s noticed that with B.C. vehicles, the fancier the car, the less likely it is to have a front plate.

To add substance to his point on the day of the interview, a Lexus without a front licence plate drove by.

Lowry gives all the drivers going by the speed-reader board a friendly wave.

“Most of them wave back with all their fingers,” he remarked with a smile.

Weir said she likes being a citizens patrol volunteer as it’s a chance to give back a bit to the town.

“It’s nice, most people are good and are grateful for you doing it.”

Although COVID-19 has limited the duties of the group, they’re able to do Speed Watch and foot patrols. They watch for stolen vehicles and have located quite a few, she said.

Weir adds she’s grateful for the police who are accommodating with the volunteers.

“We have a really good staff sergeant and sergeant. People here are really helpful.”

The admiration goes both ways. Staff Sgt. Scott West said the data gathered by the Speed Watch program allows the detachment to be more effective and economical in what they do and where they place their officers with regard to traffic control and enforcement.

He also said they’re a proactive and visible deterrent to criminal activity when they’re doing their patrols…

“They’re a motivated crew.”

The volunteers also get accolades from the public. A visitor to Salmon Arm who saw a Speed Watch patrol in a school zone recently went off to buy flowers and brought them back to the volunteers as a gesture of appreciation.

The volunteers have also been left several notes thanking them for reminders that vehicles’ insurance decals were missing, an act which saved the vehicle owners a fine.

With just 15 volunteers at the moment, Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol welcomes more. For more information, go to the Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol Society website or to its Facebook page.
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Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol volunteers Stephen Lowry and president Paula Weir carry out their Speed Watch program on Oct. 3, 2020 near the Shuswap Middle School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

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