Abbotsford Police tackling traffic issues

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) has undertaken several initiatives to try to tackle an increase in traffic-related fatalities in the last year.

Three red-light cameras are being installed at local intersections.

Three red-light cameras are being installed at local intersections.

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) has undertaken several initiatives to try to tackle an increase in traffic-related fatalities in the last year.

Insp. Tom Chesley told the police board on Tuesday the strategies include increased enforcement, the hiring of four additional traffic-section officers, intersection cameras and speed reader boards.

“This is truly one area of the department and the city where we need to make great inroads. We need to step up,” Chesley said.

In 2010, there were 15 vehicle-related deaths. Ten of those involved pedestrians. This compares to six such fatalities the previous year.

Chesley said from 2000 to 2010, a total of 102 people died on Abbotsford streets.

He said the number of people injured annually in local car crashes in the last decade has remained about the same – 2,800.

Meanwhile, Vancouver has cut its numbers in half, and Burnaby has dropped from an average of about 7,800 each year to its current rate of about 4,900.

Chesley said the reductions in those cities can be attributed both to an increase in congestion, which slows traffic, and to a higher percentage of their police force being assigned to the traffic section.

He said most jurisdictions similar in size to Abbotsford have roughly the same number of traffic officers as they have in patrol; about 17 to 20.

Abbotsford has one sergeant and six enforcement constables, he said. This is just over three per cent of the entire APD force of 216.

Those numbers will rise with the addition of four more traffic officers this year, leading to increased enforcement.

As well, Chesley said more unmarked police cars will be on the road.

Officers will focus on speed zones in high-crash or high-risk areas, distracted and impaired drivers, and pedestrian safety, among other concerns.

Three red-light cameras will be in place at key intersections, and speed reader boards will continue to be set up around the city.

Chesley said there needs be more public awareness around all the issues involved in road safety.

“We have to change people’s attitudes,” he said.