Gabe smith, Campus Carrier staff writer
Last Tuesday, Berry College Police Department (BCPD) Chief Jonathan Baggett spoke to a room of about 50 students at the weekly SGA meeting. His appearance was requested following a wide-ranging discussion of road traffic on campus, a dialogue focused especially on the issues of speeding and bicycle safety. During his speech, Baggett emphasized the importance in making sure that everyone on Berry’s roads understand how they should act in relation to each other. He noted that, although BCPD lacks a radar permit on Berry’s main campus, radar is only secondary evidence coupled with the testimony of an officer, and speeding violations can often be handled under the broader charge of reckless driving.
Baggett further emphasized that bicycles are classified as vehicles under state law and are obligated to follow the same rules of the road as ordinary motor vehicles. This means they must drive on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic (not on the sidewalk) and obey all traffic control devices.
Baggett later said that campus police believe speeding is under control on Berry’s campus. While some drivers will inevitably speed, he said, there are few speeding-related accidents or police dispatches with respect to speeding on campus. The most common location where speeding enforcement does occur is on Lavender Mountain Road, known as “Stretch Road,” leading to the WinShape Center and Berry’s mountain campus. This also happens to be the only location where BCPD has a radar permit, allowing officers to use detection devices to verify drivers’ speeds. In response to some students who asked if a radar permit can be obtained for use on Main Campus, Baggett said that the process for obtaining a permit is arduous: it requires approval from the City of Rome and the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), and requires a physical survey from the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT). A number of factors influence whether a permit is approved, including traffic volume and speed limit. The permit currently in use on Lavender Mountain Road was issued in the 1990s; at that time, Baggett said, Main Campus was also examined for the permit, but the DOT found that only the Stretch Road was eligible.
As for students concerned with whether or not Berry is doing enough on speeding at Berry, Baggett said he is not sure. At the SGA meeting, some suggested constructing new speed tables, the elevated walkways currently in front of the Krannert Center; others asked about new radar-based speed limit signs. According to Baggett, these questions are outside the scope of their department. Gary Will, assistant vice president for campus safety and land management, provided a statement regarding possible new construction.
“There are always ongoing efforts made to enhance the safety to our Berry community members,” Will’s statement said. “The speed of vehicles traveling on our campus streets is one of those issues and in some instances enforcement actions or monitoring by the campus police department is a viable option.”
He also emphasized the importance of education in ensuring that members of the Berry community can travel around the campus safely.