DPS emphasizes attentive driving in upcoming winter

GVL Archive / Lindsey Waggoner
Snow is a big problem with parking at GVSU

GVL Archive / Lindsey Waggoner Snow is a big problem with parking at GVSU

Emanuel Johnson

With November kicking into full swing and fair weather quickly moving to icy conditions at Grand Valley State University, the Department of Public Safety stressed the need to be aware of weather conditions in the coming winter season.

Icy roads and snow drifts can create dangerous situations and have the potential to increase the number of vehicle-related accidents on campus. Officer Joel Bartels of DPS said while living in West Michigan makes these conditions rather common, a great number of accidents occur during the winter because of negligent driving.

“It is part of living in West Michigan and dealing with the snow,” he said. “This Allendale area seems to get hit pretty hard every winter – but a big problem in all areas of the country is when the snow first begins to fly, people kind of forget how to drive in the snow and they don’t decrease their speed. That’s the No. 1 issue. People go too fast, and their car can’t handle the speed on the icy road.”

One major area of concern, Bartels said, is the stretch of road on West Campus Drive that runs along the golf course. He cited the area for its snow drifts and icy shoulder, can lead a vehicle to slide into one of the ditches that run along either side of the road.

In such cases, DPS officers are instructed to stand by and do damage control for the situation.

“For vehicles that are off the road, typically we will stand by and make sure they aren’t a traffic hazard and call for a tow truck to pull them out,” Bartels said. “A lot of times people go off the road and they go into a ditch or something and they lose traction, so they can’t get themselves out without a tow.”

As for vehicles that are not in motion, cars can sometimes get stuck in snow banks in the parking lots, though Bartels said it is rare for a DPS officer to have to intervene.

“We have a pretty good staff here that keeps the parking lots clear, but if we do have cars that get stuck in the parking lot, it depends on the situation,” he said. “We’ll get out and push them, or sometimes we can use our push bumpers on our cruisers to gently push cars out of the snowdrifts if they’re not too bad. You have to be careful with the push bumpers not to damage the bumper.”

Bartels said carrying an emergency kit with a blanket, road flares and jumper cables can help students through a sticky situation, but the most important tool is something that most students already carry, a cell phone.

[email protected]