Winter driving unpredictable for students, staff

by Kaylee Bandstra/ kayband21@pceagles.org

Putting a teenager behind the wheel is enough to keep parents on edge, but what happens when inexperienced driving meets the harsh Iowa winters? In a recent survey,  22% of students and staff said they have been in an accident involving snow or ice, and 57% have gotten stuck with snow or ice.

Many students have gotten stuck in the snow in front of their house. “I’ve ended up in the same ditch about a quarter mile from my house, in different years, because of ice on a gravel road hill,” said senior Emily Van Beek. “The first time I was able to get out by myself, but the second time I had to call my dad to come dig me out at 11 pm.”

One student had car damage done to them that was at other people’s fault. “My car was parked in the school parking lot, and I had left it there after a basketball game,” stated junior Katherine Weilard. “The day after New Year’s, I went with my dad to go pick it up, and as we pulled up, a young guy was putting a note in the wind shield.  He and his buddies were doing donuts in the parking lot, and he had sidewacked the driver’s door. The parking lot was covered in an inch of ice. And he was not even from our school.”

Many students cautioned others to drive slowly, not to use cruise control, and be aware of the surroundings. “Take it slow. If you are about to be late for school and are speeding down an icy road, you are certainly going to get in a car crash,” said junior Brooke Gustafson. “Getting to school on time is not worth the life or death situation. School can wait.”

Some students may question whether or not the roads are safe for them when school is still scheduled. Principal Dan Van Kooten stated that he, along with the PCGS principal and the Pella Community superintendent drive various routes leading to the school to determine when, and if, to start school that day, but the final call is always up to the parents. “We then make a decision based on the conditions we observe after taking those drives,” said Van Kooten. “I have communicated that parents always have the option to make a decision about whether their student should drive to school regardless of the school’s decision.  We are concerned for student safety on the roads, and do our best to make a reasonable decision when road and weather conditions are compromised.”

With the chance of getting stuck, always be prepared and have extra items in the car.  “Keep a jug of kitty litter in the trunk. It helps give you traction when your car is stuck!  Sprinkle it behind the wheels and you’ll be able to back out,” suggested Spanish teacher Marcus Zevenbergen.

Other items a student may need in case they get stuck include a charged cell phone, blankets, extra coats and hats, a flashlight, water, and granola or protein bars. It is also important that the driver has good visibility by making sure lights and windshield are clear and clean off the snow from the hood and roof. In cold conditions like these, it is also important to always have at least a half tank of gas, according to thecarconnection.com.

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