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Kivalliq traffic crackdown gets results

A crackdown on motorists breaking the rules of the road is achieving results in Rankin Inlet.

Earlier this summer the hamlet announced that it would be strictly enforcing its existing ATV laws, with a focus on getting both drivers and passengers to wear helmets.

RCMP and bylaw have been cracking down on dangerous drivers over the last month. Cody Punter/NNSL photo

The announcement was backed up with an increase in patrols by both bylaw and RCMP officers with a focus on making the hamlet's roads safer.

Between the two organizations, close to 20 traffic tickets have been issued over the last month alone. RCMP was responsible for a dozen, while bylaw issued half that amount.

The offences have ranged from impaired driving, to fleeing police, to not wearing a helmet while riding an ATV and failing to provide proof of registration and insurance.

Last weekend both bylaw and RCMP did specific patrols to monitor the hamlet's roads. In addition to tickets they pulled over more than 50 vehicles.

Cpl. Braden Stephenson, acting detachment commander for Rankin Inlet's RCMP, said the increase in patrols was in response to complaints from the public.

“We got numerous complaints both through the police line as well through social media that the public is displeased with certain motorist actions and driving habits so as a result of that, we decided to increase our enforcement,” he said.

Stephenson said police are more interested in ensuring people are being safe than actually handing out tickets. As a result, first-time offenders are often let go with a warning.

However, he said there are some infractions that are too serious to let slide, especially drinking and driving.

According to Stephenson, RCMP have caught two impaired drivers who caused accidents in the last month.

“There's zero discretion used when it comes to drunk driving,” he said.

Fire Chief Mark Wyatt, who manages the hamlet's bylaw unit, echoed Stephenson's sentiments about enforcement. Based on how many people are wearing helmets he believes the increased enforcement is having the desired effect on ATV riders.

“Our goal isn't to issue hundreds of tickets, our goal is to get people to be compliant and obey the bylaws for their own safety,” he said.

Wyatt and Stephenson said they have also been working to deter people – in many cases young adults on ATVs – who have been known to taunt officers and have even challenged them to give chase.

Both RCMP and bylaw have avoided doing so because of the risk of causing an accident.

However, they do have the ability to charge people at a later date.

“In a community this size it's usually pretty easy to identify – the same person that fled on you. The next day you'll see them on the road blowing a stop sign on the same ATV,” said Stephenson.

Wyatt said in some cases bylaw officers have confiscated ATVs or talked to parents to warn their children about breaking the law.

RCMP also recently criminally charged a motorist for fleeing from police. Stephenson said that aside from the danger involved in running away from authorities, the penalty is much more severe.

“It goes from a traffic violation to evading police,” he said.

Given the success so far, Wyatt said bylaw planned to continue to do traffic patrols with both its officers working the same shift periodically throughout the summer. Bylaw will also continue to try and work with RCMP when possible.

While RCMP can often be busy responding to calls, Stephenson said the detachment would continue its efforts to make the streets safe.

“It is something that is obviously important to the community and therefore we're doing our best to meet their needs when it comes to enforcing traffic laws.”