Big Rapids DPS to receive traffic safety award

BIG RAPIDS — A collaboration between public safety and public school officials has resulted in praise and recognition from the state.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) is presenting the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety with a 2018 Outstanding Traffic Safety Achievement Award for traffic changes made at Brookside and Riverview elementary schools.

EDDINGER

Big Rapids DPS Director Jim Eddinger said the award will be presented during a special program on March 20.

Representing various state departments and offices, local and state law enforcement and county road commissions, GTSAC honors individuals and groups each year for their special involvement and dedication to traffic safety, according to the letter Eddinger received from the commission.

Nominated for the award by Ferris State University Department of Public Safety Director Bruce Borkovich, Eddinger said the traffic changes implemented at the two schools prior to the start of academic year helped reduce the risk of children and adults being hurt by traffic in front of the the buildings.

“We teamed up with the public schools and contacted (city engineers) Fleis and VandenBrink to do a traffic study,” he said. “The changes were made so when the fall came we were ready. At first it was a little bit confusing, but once everyone got used to it, the transition worked well. The transition periods at the school have smoothed out. We’ve made it a priority to make certain a police officer or service officer is there during those times.”

Eddinger said officials looked at the street while school was in session, and saw cars were parked on both sides of the street, from one end to the other.

“People were just opening their door and walking across the street,” he said. “That’s the last thing you want to have happen with traffic going by.”

Two traffic studies were completed at a shared cost of $3,000 for both the city and Big Rapids Public Schools, Eddinger said.

“The (Fleis and VandenBrink) studies were rather extensive,” he said. “They look at how long the average drop-off was for each family, compared to the national average to see if there was something we could improve or speed up.

“In the end, taking away the parking in front of the school and making it nothing more than a transition zone, meant people would need to park on the side streets. They would be funneled to the crosswalks where they need to be. A simple change like this can make it so much safer.”

Eddinger said he read in a law enforcement magazine about a midwestern community which had gone through two tragic accidents in front of a school, after children walked outside of a crosswalk.

“There was a concern about safety, but they really didn’t change anything after the first incident,” he said. “They really paid the price in not reacting.

“Despite the fact we hadn’t had a tragedy, we wanted to get right on top of that. We really didn’t want to be doing things based on how we always had done them.”

Eddinger praised BRPS Superintendent Tim Haist, as well as city manager Mark Gifford and department of public works supervisor Heather Bowman, for being open to new ideas and helping make the collaboration successful.

“The great thing is for people to see that we are working together to make this community as safe as possible,” he said. “I was excited to receive the letter and didn’t expect an award. It was about getting ahead of something. I think as the DPS director, I will sleep better at night knowing I left no stone unturned to make things safer.”

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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