GVPD stresses caution, attentiveness as snow affects driving conditions

GVL / Bo Anderson
GVSU Junior Colin Kammeraad cleans off his car before class

Bo Anderson

GVL / Bo Anderson GVSU Junior Colin Kammeraad cleans off his car before class

Chelsea Lane

Students who bemoaned a “green Christmas” over Winter Break were welcomed back to Grand Valley State University with more seasonally-appropriate weather as snow finally began accumulating on GVSU’s campus over the past two weeks. But with the snow’s arrival comes slick, sloppy roads and more hazardous driving conditions, and the Grand Valley Police Department is advising students to be cautious as they drive.

Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of GVPD, said while overall accident rates are down this school year due to the relatively mild winter weather so far, there has been a spike in the number of reported accidents on campus and on nearby Lake Michigan Drive in the past two weeks as snowfall increases.

Officer Paul Weaver, who handles many of the on-campus parking and traffic issues, said winter accidents are typically one-car incidents where students slide off the road or get stuck in the snow. Weaver said the most common cause of winter accidents is students not taking weather conditions into account when they drive. He advised that cautious, attentive driving is key to avoid accidents on icy and snowy roads.

“Drive according to the weather conditions, which means drive slowly,” he said. DeHaan added that another common problem that contributes to wintertime accidents is improper snow removal on car windshields and windows. Oftentimes, he said, students in a rush to get to class simply clear off a hole on the driver’s side that they can look through but leave the rest of their car covered in ice and snow, obscuring their vision.

“When you clear off a small area, that’s when you get that periscope effect,” DeHaan said. “While you can technically see out, you can’t really see where you’re going. Your back and side windows and side mirrors should be clear, as well as your windshield.”

DeHaan also advised traveling with a roadside emergency kit, complete with a blanket, jumper cables and other tools in the event that students become stuck in the snow or get into an accident.

In addition to driving concerns, the winter weather also creates problems in the parking lot for faculty and students alike, including the dreaded phenomenon of triple parking. Triple parking occurs when drivers park outside the lines which have been obscured by snowfall, forcing other drivers to also park incorrectly if they want to fit into the neighboring empty spaces. This chain reaction can block in other cars as well as take up extra space in the parking lot. To help ward off triple parking, Weaver and a team of student workers set up rows of traffic cones marking where the lines are beneath the snow and indicating to students where parking rows start and end.

To contact the GVPD for non-emergencies, call 616-331-3255.

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