— Pamela Roth
During the past three years with the Victoria police traffic unit, Acting Sgt. Ross Smith has seen a lot of collisions.
But the intersections of Hillside Avenue and Shelbourne Road, and Douglas and Finlayson streets continue to cause him the most concern, and it’s easy to see why.
According to the most recent statistics from ICBC, the intersection at Douglas and Finlayson recorded the highest amount of serious and fatal collisions between 2009 and 2013 with 110, followed by Burnside Road and Douglas Street with 108, and Hillside Avenue and Shelbourne Street with 105.
During that same period, Hillside Avenue and Shelbourne recorded the most collisions overall with 312, followed by the intersections at Burnside Road and Douglas Street, and Douglas and Finlayson, both tied at 250.
Ross has been to those intersections more than two dozen times, and figures the high number of collisions are likely due to high volumes of traffic. Two years later, the numbers aren’t showing much signs of improvement.
“You are getting traffic trying to flow in from the outside communities into the downtown area combining with lots of young drivers that are making their way to schools and colleges in the area,” said Ross about the Hillside Avenue and Shelbourne Road intersection.
“We try to educate as much as possible and hopefully the word gets out. At the end of the day, what you could physically alter at the intersection, I really don’t know…We never know what people are doing behind the wheel.”
ICBC statistics show distracted driving contributed to 29 per cent of collisions in 2013, followed by speeding at 27 per cent and impaired driving at 24 per cent.
Ross said Victoria police have placed plain clothes officers on city streets to simply watch what drivers are doing behind the wheel, particularly when they’re stopped at a red light. Many don’t seem to realize that sending a message on their phone while stopped at a light is still considered distracted driving.
“People are of the illusion that if they are stopped, it’s okay,” said Ross, adding those aged 16 to late twenties seem to be the worst when it comes to texting behind the wheel.
“People aren’t getting the message. I think that’s the disappointing part. How much more can we do? We are constantly running campaigns.”
The fine for distracted driving is $167 along with three penalty points. Ross has heard some citizens voice the fines should be higher.
As far as speeding is concerned, the 3100 block of Blanshard Street continues to be the worst in the city. The speed limit in the area is 50 km/hr, but Ross said police have stopped drivers travelling in excess of 100 km/hr. Usually the norm for speeding is between 60 and 65 km/hr.
Police are also called to various communities that have come forward with concerns about speeding. In those cases, officers typically place a speed reader board on the road first to make drivers aware of how fast they are going.
“A lot of us get into our own ways of driving and we get used to the speed that we drive,” said Ross. “Most of the times we don’t pay attention.”