GVSU Allendale Campus. GVL
Members of the Grand Valley State University community spent the last week scraping off their cars, bundling up with gloves and scarves and trudging through ice and snow to get to classes on time. Winter weather is here to stay, and Grand Valley Police Department reminds students and staff alike to drive responsibly this season.
“Compared to the last month, we’ve seen more accidents the last couple weeks on roadways and in parking lots. We’ve have 16 crash reports for the month of November so far,” said GVPD Captain Jeff Stoll.
Though Michigan weather can be severe and unpredictable, it’s the responsibility of drivers to adjust their driving habits in accordance with the weather. According to Stoll, this means giving yourself extra time before you hit the road.
“Visibility is a big thing we want people to be aware of. No one likes to clean their windshield or maybe you don’t have a brush, but you legally have to provide yourself enough vision and clarity to see out of all of your windows,” Stoll said.
Only clearing a small space on the windshield isn’t going to cut it. All of the windows need to be cleared off, as well as headlights, tail lights, license plate and rear-view mirrors. Allowing an obstructed view while driving is illegal and could end in a ticket or a collision.
“Clearing off headlights is crucial, though some people don’t always think to do this. If you are driving and snow is frozen to the front, people may be able to see your lights but the lights won’t project as far and that can affect your visibility,” Stoll said.
Properly preparing the vehicle is only one part of safe winter travel, though. The rest is up to the driver.
“You need to provide more distance between yourself and the cars around you. The responsibility is on you as a driver is to put yourself in a position where you can stop safely. We respond to a lot of collisions because people are following too closely too fast,” Stoll said.
According to Michigan Statute Code 257.627:
“A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead”
Accidents do happen regardless, and students who end up stuck or in a collision are recommended to call 911 for the quickest dispatch options.
“If you bump into someone and you are able to move the cars, you are required to get off the road into a parking lot if you’re able to so a report can be completed. Staying on the road can cause other accidents to build up as people attempt to slow down and swerve to miss the first accident,” Stoll said.
In case of a dead battery, collision or getting stuck in a ditch, GVPD recommends that people keep some “winter survival” items in their vehicles, including a shovel, ice scraper and brush, and portable phone charger to ensure safety while waiting for help.