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Back to Archives | Back to July 2005 Contents 

RCMPTraffic Services

By Stanley B. McNeil, Inspector and Officer in Charge, National Traffic Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

very year some 3,000 Canadians are killed and more than 200,000 are injured in traffic collisions. One-third of these casualties occur in RCMP jurisdiction. Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death among youth, and impaired driving remains the greatest criminal cause of death in Canada. More than $9 billion CDN is spent annually on health care and social costs relating to traffic crashes. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) vision is to contribute towards making Canada's roads the safest in the world by the year 2010.

The RCMP, as Canada's national police force, provides contract-policing services to eight of the 10 Canadian provinces and to all three territories. In addition to these provincial and territorial contracts, RCMP also provides contract-policing services to larger municipalities. In all these jurisdictions, RCMP Traffic Services are at work.

From 1973 to about 1990, road safety in Canada made significant gains in reducing the number of road user crash fatalities. Transport Canada reported a high of 6,706 crash fatalities in 1973, but by 1990 this number had been reduced to 3,963. During this period there were significant improvements in road and vehicle design; however, vehicle collision investigations continued to reveal that road user behavior was a significant contributing factor in crashes. Starting in the early1990s, Transport Canada collaborated with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), and in 1996 CCMTA implemented a road safety program called Road Safety Vision (RSV) 2001. The strategic objectives of this program were to raise public awareness of road safety issues; to improve communication, cooperation, and collaboration among road safety agencies; to enhance enforcement measures; and to improve national road safety data collection and quality.

Although considerable improvements in road safety were made, the casualty figures continued to be a grim reminder of the constant need to improve road safety. Although RSV 2001 had considerable support amongst many of the stakeholders in the transportation safety field, police participation was very limited. Many of the stakeholders believed that to alter driver behavior, increased police participation would be required in any future road safety initiatives.

To evaluate the police role in road safety, during the late 1990s, Transport Canada, the Canadian Association Chiefs of Police (CACP) Traffic Committee, the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Quebec Provincial Police (QPP), Health Canada, and Alberta Transportation conducted a pilot project in southern Alberta. They realized, as a result, that there was a need for police to move away from an enforcement-oriented program, working in isolation from other stakeholders, to a more integrated model that addressed the causal factors of fatal and serious injury collisions. In 2002 the results of this pilot project and the development of a revised Canadian road safety initiative promoted by Transport Canada and the CCMTA, renamed RSV 2010, brought about a radical change in RCMP Traffic Services. It embraced RSV 2010 and adopted a new model of service delivery. This model involves setting strategic priorities to address the five leading causal factors in fatal and serious injury collisions (impaired driving, seatbelt wearer rates, aggressive driving, intersection control and unsafe speed).

The strategic objectives included the promotion of prevention and education programs, problem-solving centered on public safety, intelligence-led policing through the development and piloting of the Traffic Services Management Information Tool (TSMIT), partnership development, quality collision investigations and enforcement balanced to the risk to public safety.

To better manage traffic services, supervisors adopted strategies that included fostering a culture of excellence, development of performance standards, team service delivery, national integrated planning, and the improved use of technology.

By embracing RSV 2010, RCMP is committed to an ambitious plan with a national target for a 30 percent decrease in the average number of road users killed or seriously injured during the 2008-2010 period compared with 1996-2001 benchmark figures. The subtargets of RSV 2010 call for the following:

  • A 95 percent rate of seatbelt wearing and proper use of appropriate child restraints by all motor vehicle occupants

  • 40 percent decrease in the number of road users fatally or seriously injured on rural roadways (defined as roads where the speed limit is 80-90 kilometers per hour)

  • A 40 percent decrease in the number of fatally or seriously injured unbelted occupants

  • A 40 percent decrease in the number of road users fatally or seriously injured in crashes that involve drinking drivers

  • A 20 percent decrease in the number of road users killed or seriously injured in speed- or intersection-related crashes

  • A 20 percent decrease in the number of young drivers and riders (16-19 years of age) killed or seriously injured in crashes

  • A 20 percent decrease in the number of road users killed or seriously injured in crashes involving commercial vehicles

  • A 30 percent decrease in the number of fatally or seriously injured vulnerable road users (pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists)

  • A 20 percent decrease in the number of road users fatally or seriously injured in crashes involving high-risk drivers

For RCMP jurisdictions, the traffic coordinator in each province and territory reports on annual progress on RSV 2010 to National Traffic Services, located at headquarters in Ottawa. At the end of 2004, Inspector Brenda Lucki, officer in charge of Traffic Services for the RCMP in Saskatchewan, reported considerable progress towards reaching the targets of RSV 2010.

The Saskatchewan Experience
Saskatchewan is located in the western prairies and has a population of 996,000 people. Its landmass is 651,900 square kilometers, which is more than a quarter of a million square miles. It has 185,000 kilometers of roadways, more than any other province in Canada. Over half of the province's population lives in one of its 13 cities. Its major industries are agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and tourism.

Saskatchewan's RCMP Traffic Services consists of six traffic offices, 58 members, and one full-time senior collision analyst. The collision analyst receives additional support from 12 part-time collision reconstructionists. The RCMP polices mainly rural areas and roadways outside of the cities. They use team service delivery approximately 60-70 percent of their time. During 2004 they experienced a 24 percent decrease in deaths and serious injuries on their roadways.

The RCMP Traffic Services in Saskatchewan has made significant gains on their subtargets.. Except for two subtargets, speed-related crashes and deaths of vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists), significant progress has been made and in some cases the subtargets were either met or exceeded.

Saskatchewan has a publicly funded automotive insurance program, and the RCMP works closely with Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) to develop and implement traffic safety initiatives. These initiatives include:

  • Aboriginal Traffic Program that allows residents of the remote northern reserves to obtain restricted driver's licenses for driving in remote communities

  • Booze and Belts presentations aimed at driver trainers, insurance personnel, and schools and delivered both on site and via satellite to driver training classes in the remote communities

  • Crash Dynamics presentations given to SGI claims and injury adjustors

  • Alcohol workshops given to SGI and Highway Traffic Board (HTB) members in order to give them a better understanding of impaired driving when dealing with suspensions and appeals

  • Traffic safety presentations given to private companies to increase employee awareness

  • Operation Enforcement Overdrive, a program that provides funding to enable units working overtime to work toward the goals of RSV 2010 and increase their commitment to national traffic projects

Roving Traffic Units
In Saskatchewan, RCMP Traffic Services also has seven members assigned to dedicated roving traffic units. Unlike the other traffic units, they are not restricted to specific boundaries, team service delivery or involved in collision investigations. Their role is to enhance police visibility by patrolling major highways and conducting high-volume traffic stops to maintain public safety.

They are also expected to use their pipeline and convoy policing techniques to identify traveling criminals and terrorists who may be using Canada's roadways to facilitate criminal activity. In 2004 the roving traffic units made 104 seizures that totaled in excess of $15 million CDN worth of drugs and more than $850,000 CDN in cash.

Roving traffic unit stops in Saskatchewan also made contributions to six homicide investigations in Saskatchewan and neighboring Alberta, contributed towards the apprehension of a home invasion suspect out of Calgary, developed intelligence that led to the discovery of a stolen vehicle chop shop in Calgary, and recovered several counterfeit credit cards and citizenship documents. One such investigation was international in scope. The roving traffic units also provided intelligence to databanks on organized crime in neighboring Manitoba.

Saskatchewan intelligence units receive timely information from roving traffic unit members through telephone submissions and regular attendance to investigations. In cases where a traffic stop leads to a major drug or cash seizure, an integrated response team comprised of drug section, financial crimes and technical support responds to take the lead in the investigation.

This integrated response maximizes resources to extract as much intelligence as possible, furthers investigations and often leads to providing intelligence for other ongoing investigations. A mentoring program has been created to encourage members who are trained in pipeline and convoy policing, but who are not on the roving traffic units, to use their skills more regularly and more strategically.

The New Model's Result
Although the RCMP is still in the early stages of their new model of service delivery, the results have been encouraging. The majority of provincial and territorial traffic coordinators have reported a reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes in their jurisdictions.

The Traffic Service Management Information tool (TSMIT) is being piloted this year in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Once the pilot is completed and the necessary modifications made to the program it will roll out nationally. TSMIT will give all of the RCMP traffic coordinators the ability to accurately analyze crash data and enforcement and education activities to ensure that service delivery is aligned to their specific crash situation.

Traffic crashes affect the entire community. To have safer homes and communities, it is necessary to have an effective traffic services program strategically focused on reducing the carnage on the roadways. Outreach programs and education initiatives are designed to enlist the help and support of communities to work with police toward this important goal. ■   



From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 7, July 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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