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Two male RCMP officers stand two metres apart in front of a light house. Two police cruisers are in the background.

RCMP highway unit addresses PEI policing priorities

Cst. Stephen Duggan and Cst. Jamie Parsons make up the PEI RCMP Provincial Priority Unit and are dedicated to keeping the Island's roads safer. Credit: Cst. Steven MacDonnell, RCMP


The RCMP has an extra set of eyes on Prince Edward Island's roads.

The Provincial Priority Unit (PPU), launched last year, focuses on traffic enforcement throughout the province.

While RCMP officers at all detachments regularly conduct traffic patrols, they do so between responding to calls and investigating files. The two-member PPU, however, focuses on traffic enforcement full time.

"We try to cover the Island several times a week so people know that we're out there," says Cst. Stephen Duggan, a PPU officer. "We could be down east at one tip of the Island one day, and the very next day at the other end."

Through enforcement, education and an increased police presence, the unit works to keep roads safer.

In the last year, there were numerous instances of drivers going nearly twice the posted limit, some at speeds up to 180 km/h.

"Excessive speeds and impaired driving are two major causes of death on the highway," says Cst. Jamie Parsons, who works with the PPU. "But, we enforce everything under the Highway Traffic Act from distracted driving to ensuring vehicles are complying with safety regulations."

The unit also covers some of the back roads where people may not typically see police.

More than traffic

While currently focusing on traffic enforcement, the unit's work can change based on policing priorities in the province.

"The unit does more than just traffic," says RCMP Sgt. Christopher Gunn, who oversees the PPU and other RCMP teams in PEI. "It's a multifaceted unit that can provide flexibility on short notice."

When COVID-19 regulations brought more attention to the Island's border, Duggan and Parsons helped maintain a 24-hour police presence at the Confederation Bridge, which connects PEI to New Brunswick.

The unit can also help other RCMP detachments and teams with their operations, such as search warrants, gang enforcement and critical incidents. In the past, it has helped provincial conservation officers enforce off-road vehicle regulations and supported suspect-searches with remotely-piloted aircraft systems, or drones, which Duggan and Parsons are trained to operate.

"If you have the tools in your vehicle to assist, it's easy to get out there and be an extra set of eyes if necessary," says Duggan.

Using the @rcmpPEItraffic Twitter account, Parsons and Duggan regularly provide the public with safety tips, updates on road and weather conditions and highlights of what they encounter on patrol.

Public presence

Duggan says the unit's presence has been welcome on the Island

"Everyday there are calls about vehicles driving erratically," he says. "If people know we're out there and that's a deterrent that slows them down, that's fantastic."

Prior to COVID-19, the PPU also provided educational presentations in schools and with community groups across the province.

"The extra visibility in the communities tells the public we're out there and shows we're concerned about public safety," says Gunn.

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