Traffic chat with the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit

Ever wonder how fast you can travel past an emergency vehicle on the highway?

Ever wonder how fast you can travel past an emergency vehicle on the highway? Or what car seats are required for your child? Sgt. Nathan Kardish of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit took some time to discuss common questions from motorists.

First on the list is the question of speed when there is an emergency vehicle on the road. In Alberta a motorist is required to slow down to 60 km/h if they are in the adjacent lane, however if they are two lanes over, they are not required to slow down but according to Kardish many times drivers slow down in both lanes.

“The biggest part of speed past an emergency vehicle is people are genuinely trying their best,” said Kardish.

“People that know the rule are flying in at 110 and all of a sudden there’s screeching brakes and cars are almost piling up.”

He advises people to keep to the appropriate speed limit as it becomes a safety risk for people on the road, especially when professional drivers such as truck drivers, who know the rules, are travelling at 110 km/h. He has witnessed collisions while at a routine traffic stop.

“You turn around and then all of a sudden you hear brakes screeching.”

Another question Kardish comes across concerns appropriate sizes of car seats for children, especially when they reach a certain age or weight.

The weights for rear-facing seats are up to 20 pounds and for front-facing seats is 20 to 40 pounds. While booster seats are not required for children older than six years and over 40 pounds, he still thinks it is better for parents to have one. Because kids’ hips and shoulders are not fully developed, their neck may be lower than someone who has a longer frame.

“Having that booster seat positions them properly for the seat belt,” he explained.

Transport Canada also advises a booster seat be used up to 80 pounds, explained Cpl. Jerry Court. “Even a collision at 40 km/h you’re going to feel it.”

The exemption for child seats are taxis, emergency vehicles and motor vehicles rented or leased for two weeks or less.

The integrated traffic unit tries to conduct two-child seat clinics to educate parents of proper child restraints for the vehicle.

“All we do is assist in making them safe,” explained Kardish.

When it comes to safety and the use of seat belts, Kardish said the biggest component in the cost of a vehicle is in keeping the driver safe. Much of the design is around crumple zones, caging, airbags and seat belts. “All what we call livable space in the vehicle… All that stuff that you’re paying for is all that technology that is keeping you safe in there.”

Using a seat belt is one of the first steps in a driver’s safety. “You increase your chance of survival by over 50 per cent if you are belted in the vehicle.”

One component of Kardish’s role is to organize Check Stops, which cover Highway 11A north in Red Deer up to Secondary Highway 616 at Millet, as well as towns along the Highway 2 corridor.

The stops are part of the Office of Traffic Safety, which is funded by the Enhanced Check Stop Fund. There are three sheriffs and three RCMP members whose only job for 10 hours is to cover the Check Stop, which costs the fund approximately $10,000 to run.

“It’s a huge visibility thing,” he stated.

The highest number of impaired drivers they have apprehended in a Check Stop in Ponoka is six, and they were consistently getting two to four impaired drivers at a Check Stop. By the last one they held no impaired driver was charged.

“We’re just not getting the impaireds we used to…We see that as a good thing,” explained Kardish.

One person he stopped during one stop showed Kardish a status on Facebook that said, “Don’t drive, Ponoka is on lockdown.” He believes it has created safe driving for residents.

Another issue Kardish comes across is confusion over insuring a newly acquired vehicle. “People are confused about how it works with regard to insurance or registration.”

Despite slightly different standards for insurance companies, carrying insurance is something an owner is responsible for as soon as they acquire a new vehicle; registering a new car has different rules.

A person is allowed 14 days to register a new car with an old license plate, “as long as you don’t have the old car.”

The biggest advice Kardish gave motorists though was to wear their seat belts — it will keep them safe.

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