Why are (many) drivers here in such a rush?

Pedestrians watch out while walking around Campbell River

It seems like many drivers in Campbell River are fast on the pedal, late on the brake, and have a need for speed.

The impetus of this column are two scary near misses I saw on Tuesday night while travelling on Dogwood Street.

First, I saw a truck almost strike a pedestrian crossing the street at a signaled crosswalk.

After turning into the intersection at an unnecessary speed, the driver saw the person at the last second. They slammed on the brakes, stopping short by mere feet, before speeding off without even the courtesy of a “sorry I almost killed you” wave. The pedestrian was left stunned in the road before scurrying to safety.

Not three minutes later, I saw more or less the exact same thing happen, albeit a tad less dramatic.

Admittedly, it was rainy and getting dark. But it didn’t seem like either driver entertained the notion for even a moment there might be someone crossing.

After months walking, biking and driving around Campbell River, I’ve seen constant instances of aggressive drivers showing little regard for others, particularly pedestrians.

I don’t want to paint too large a brush. I’m sure many of you are responsible motor vehicle operators who adjust to conditions and more or less follow the law.

But many here seem to be in a rush. It’s a strange phenomenon in a town where it takes less than 20 minutes to drive from one side to the other, and heavy traffic is rarely seen.

RCMP statistics indicate driving behaviour in Campbell River might be getting worse.

The Campbell River RCMP detachment responded to 1,710 warnings and tickets in 2020 — roughly double of what they saw in 2018, per Const. Maury Tyre (though he noted this trend could be a response to changing enforcement or officer turnover).

Between 2017 and 2019, there is also a clear increase in the rate of impaired driving and other Criminal Code traffic incidents in Campbell River. Rates were high again in 2020, though slightly lower than in 2019 (the reporting of many crimes declined during pandemic ‘lockdowns’).

My reporting has been drawn to this issue. I’ve already covered a story on drivers ignoring crosswalks and one on the city being forced to install traffic calming measures on what is supposed to be a quiet residential street. I just hope my next story won’t be about a pedestrian getting struck and killed.

Many parts of Campbell River are not great for walking. Sidewalks are often smack next to roads, so you are hammered by the noise, wind, and spray of passing vehicles. Many streets lack sidewalks altogether, meaning you’re forced to actively avoid vehicles — some speeding.

Combined with this lack of infrastructure, reckless driving behaviour might be convincing some residents to skip their evening strolls altogether. Maybe it’s the weather, but I don’t see many others walking the streets when my wife and I go to ‘get our steps in.’ Drivers often seem genuinely surprised at our presence.

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451 — the one where books are burned and everyone is drugged and glued to never ending soap operas — people drive at insane speeds, taking pleasure at hitting anything in their path.

In this book, one of the characters remarks on how in their haste and velocity, they forget the world around them.

“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly,” she says.

Let’s not be like them.

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