NAPPAN, N.S. - For Cpl. Dave Baldwin enforcing Nova Scotia’s move over legislation is personal.
A year ago Wednesday, the veteran RCMP officer lost a close friend when Const. Frank Deschenes was killed at the roadside near Memramcook, N.B. while helping a motorist change a tire.
Baldwin was a pallbearer at Deschenes’ funeral and attended the memorial service in Regina last weekend when the officer’s name was added to the RCMP cenotaph at its training facility.
“A lot of members here were very attached to him. He was a likeable person and a great officer,” Baldwin said. “It still affects us today, but we have a great support network here and we can talk about it with each other. Still, there’s a lot of anxiety when conducting traffic stops because of it. It’s always in the back of our minds.”
RCMP officers throughout Nova Scotia hosted information checkpoints to mark the anniversary of Deschenes’ death and to hand out information to motorists to ensure they understand their responsibilities under the Move Over Law and the recent amendment, known as Frankie’s Law, that includes tow truck drivers in the list of vehicles that, when their lights are flashing, indicate drivers should move to the left and slow to 60 km/h.
While RCMP say many motorists are getting message, there still some who move over, but don’t slow down. To prove their point, officers set up a LIDAR on an overpass near Amherst to show media just how fast some vehicles passed a stopped police vehicle with its emergency lights engaged.
Almost all of the vehicles that passed during the demonstration did move over into the far lane, but many were travelling much faster than the required 60 km/h and other police vehicles were close by stopping motorists and issuing tickets. For a first offence, the fine is at least $350.
“It can be very frustrating at times, you literally have to have eyes in the back of your head,” Const. Bryce Haight said. “You’re looking out for their safety as well as your own safety. People often don’t know why we’re stopped and we need that space to work. People have no idea or comprehension of what we’re doing. They think we’re just there ticketing or ruining someone else’s day.”
Haight, who works with Northwest Traffic Services, was a partner of Deschenes. He admitted it was very emotional preparing to go to work Wednesday knowing what took place a year ago.
“It was harder yes, a lot more emotional than any other day,” said Haight, who will carry Deschenes’ Stetson at a national police memorial ceremony later this month in Ottawa.
Haight said the moving over has come a long way, the speed still has to be reduced. He said it’s up to police to continue enforcement and education so it becomes automatic for motorists to move over, if safe, and slow down.
“It’s really not that much of a difference when it comes to time, we’re not inconveniencing them. When you do the math it only adds 15 to 30 seconds to their trip so me and my co-workers, EHS, fire and soon to be tow truck drivers are going to be safe and can go home to their families at night,” he said.
Deschenes' wife, Savannah, said in a message via Facebook that she wore red Wednesday in her husband's memory.
"Sept. 12, 2017 was unknowingly the last time I would kiss Frank goodbye as he slept so peacefully," she said. "At approximately 7:30 p.m. my life changed forever. It still feels like yesterday that he was taken from me. i will continue to talk about him, think about him, and love him. It was such a senseless tragedy. I am honoured to call him my husband."