Riverview Pace Car program to encourage safe driving



What does a community do when less than 15 per cent of its drivers are abiding by the 30 km/hour speed limit?

According to Gerry Ertel, president of the Riverview Community Association, appeal to their senses and encourage them to sport a decal of honour through the launch of a pilot program focused on speed reduction.

The Pace Car Program launched last week in the Riverview community put a call out to its residents to voluntarily pledge to abide by the speed limit by sticking a yellow decal on their vehicles to showcase their commitment.

In motorsports, pace cars are safety cars that limit the speeds of racing cars on the track. The Pace Car Program does not encourage drivers to go well below the speed limit – only to maintain safe, maximum limits.

“We are asking people to drive the posted limit if conditions allow it. Sometimes weather conditions may mean you may have to drive slower,” said Ertel

“About a year and a half ago, we had eight to 10 people come to us and say they felt that themselves, their children and their vehicles are not safe because of the speeding in Riverview,” explained Ertel, adding that increased enforcement and public education will also help boost the strategy.

“I feel like there is a lot of community spirit in Riverview … I think it’s a great idea,” said Lynndy Menssa, mother of three, dayhome provider and Villas of Riverstone resident.

Menssa said speeding is top of mind for her when walking her dayhome children to and from the community parks for play and in her experiences, she has observed speeding to be a problem.

Michael Smith, father of two and Riverview Drive resident for seven years, said recklessness and accelerating drivers are the biggest problems along his street – where his young children are not allowed to play unsupervised on his front yard.

Riverview Drive is mostly 50 km/hour, with the exception of the park near the west entrance, which slows down to 30 km/hour.

“I’m not quite sure how this program is going to work, (but) I’m glad somebody is taking the initiative to do something different,” said Smith, adding that he has been disappointed with the level of RCMP and bylaw enforcement in the community.

Enhanced enforcement is what Cochranite Julie Sharpe thinks is the answer – not decals, which she worries might trigger road rage and those sporting them could pose safety risks by going too far under the speed limit.

“It starts off with a decal pledging you won’t speed but it becomes a badge of entitlement,” said Sharpe, a Sunset Ridge resident who said she “is 100 per cent against the Pace Car initiative” and would not support it in her community.

Ertel, a 27 year Riverview resident, said that since Riverview is not a major thoroughfare to shopping districts, most speedy offenders have been identified as community residents.

The bustling community association, with nearly 50 per cent resident membership (205 out of 416 homes) put it out to their residents at their fall 2016 annual general meeting, where they were sent back to the drawing board to come up with a program to reduce speeding in Riverview – one that the town has given the green light to.

Last spring, the Town of Cochrane mounted devices onto light standards –inconspicuous recording devices that tracked size and speed of traffic, as well as time of day.

Ertel said the data revealed that the 30 km per hour areas posed the biggest challenges, with less than 15 per cent of people travelling under the speed limit; around 20 per cent speeding at 45 km/hour and more – considered excessive.

The 50 km per hour areas in Riverview revealed fewer offenders, although one vehicle was recorded at 120 km per hour at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

Vernon, B.C., is one community that has achieved measurable success since the launch of its Pace Car Program in 2014.

According to Angela Broadbent, active transportation co-ordinator for the City of Vernon, the municipality has incorporated its Pace Car Program into public education at schools.

Funds for the program were provided through a grant through Parachute Canada, a national, charitable organization dedicated to injury prevention and saving lives through community speed reduction.

Broadbent said Vernon’s speed watch research revealed that before program implementation, numbers showed that 20 per cent of speeders were exceeding 40 km/hour in the 30 km/hour zone at Ellison Elementary.

Two years later, the number of offenders dropped to three per cent.

For Suzanne Gaida, deputy CAO for the town, the program was an easy one to get behind and affordable – costing around $700 to put up signs at both community entrances and to print the decals to be doled out. The funds come from the town’s community services operating budget.

“One of the top concerns we keep hearing from our community associations is speed,” said Gaida, adding that no subdivision in Cochrane is immune to the issue.

Whether or not the pilot will expand to other communities will depend on the results of the town’s follow-up vehicle monitoring in one year, combined with the will of community associations to expand the program into their communities.

Ertel said they are approaching 30 decals on resident vehicles in the first few days and they are hoping this number will jump to 50 in the coming weeks.


About Author

Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.