Vernon Community Safety Unit volunteers Lyle Duffield and Blair Derry clock speeds along Okanagan Landing Road with RCMP Const. Chris Terlesko during a recent speed watch blitz for the start of the school year. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon Community Safety Unit volunteers Lyle Duffield and Blair Derry clock speeds along Okanagan Landing Road with RCMP Const. Chris Terlesko during a recent speed watch blitz for the start of the school year. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Okanagan volunteers slowing down speeders

Speed Watch program back in action with schools back in session

Heavy footed drivers appear to be easing up in some Okanagan school zones.

Speed Watch volunteer Blair Derry is back in action clocking speeds around Vernon, and following a stint on Okanagan Landing Road Tuesday, Sept. 15, he noted very few going over the 30 kilometre limit.

“There doesn’t seem to be as many bad speeders as two or three years ago,” Derry told RCMP Const. Chris Terleski. “They seem to be going a bit slower.”

In fact, many drivers even extended a wave to the speed watchers, appreciating their efforts to keep kids safe.

“It works, it really slows people down,” Derry said of the Vernon Community Safety Unit program, which is supported by ICBC.

Volunteers like Derry are back in action following a pandemic pause, not just checking speeds, but acting as the eyes and ears for the RCMP around town.

“Lots of the groups were down because of COVID and this group is back up and running, which is fantastic because school has started again,” ICBC road safety coordinator Christine Kirby said.

READ MORE: Drive with caution through Vernon crosswalks, school zones

ICBC supports the Speed Watch program by supplying the equipment, such as readers, for the volunteers.

“Right now we are out every day, five days a week,” Derry said.

Crime Prevention Coordinator Regan Borisenko has been running the program for the last 10 years.

“It helps create a safe zone for kids going back to school. It’s also operated in high crash zones and high speed zones,” Borisenko said.

While most drivers appear to be abiding by the law, there’s always some who are in a hurry. That’s where RCMP roll in to support the Speed Watch volunteers.

“If they are going too fast and decide not to slow down even though they’ve had the warning the RCMP are there to educate them further with a more memorable ticket,” said Borisenko.

It’s thanks to volunteers like Derry, who put in a minimum of 80 hours a year with the safety unit, who are making a difference.

“It’s my opportunity to give something back to our community and make our community a good place to live,” said retired Derry, who has been volunteering for nine years. “It’s really worthwhile. It’s also good for me to keep me busy.”

Armed with the speed reader gun, Lyle Duffield has enjoyed the job for the last 29 years.

“I just want to do something good for the community. And I want people to be safe,” said Duffield, who also has grandkids he wants protected.

Duffield works twice a month with the Speed Watch program, on top of conducting night patrols and acting on the quick response team.

“We have volunteers who put in up to 500 hours a year,” said Borisenko of the dedication in the community.

Volunteers like Derry were also recently out at the Paddlewheel boat launch doing safety and mussel checks on boats.

“We didn’t find any but we check for them to make sure,” said Derry. “And people really like the idea that we check for safety equipment because a lot of people don’t have everything they should have and they want to be safe out there.”

Next up, the safety unit will be focusing on distracted driving and looking for motorists who are paying more attention to their phones than the road.

READ MORE: Police on alert for distracted Okanagan drivers


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jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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Okanagan volunteers slowing down speeders

Vernon Community Safety Unit volunteer Lyle Duffield clocks speeds along Okanagan Landing Road during a recent speed watch blitz for the start of the school year. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon Community Safety Unit volunteer Lyle Duffield clocks speeds along Okanagan Landing Road during a recent speed watch blitz for the start of the school year. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)