Secondary roads earn secondary safety

Senior Oriana Hackworth rose out of bed the Saturday morning after a terrible January snowstorm. She had hoped that road workers would have plowed the backroads she lived on by the time her late morning shift started. They hadn’t.

Hackworth spent hours getting ready for her shift at 10 a.m. As soon as she stepped out of her home, she was assaulted by the bone-chilling air and the horrendous sight of deep snow coating everything.

“I work in town at McDonald’s, which is a long drive for me, so I had to call in because of the shin-high snow,” she said. 

The winter conditions can hinder students and their families but not enough to close the school. Snow days provide relaxation and get rid of the worry of trying to figure out a way to school. This forces students to either miss school or drive in terrible conditions when the chance of an accident increases. 

More than 116,000 Americans are injured, and over 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy pavement every winter according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additionally, almost 40% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur during snow or on icy pavement.

Michigan is the most dangerous state for winter driving in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With older students driving to school in the winter weather, lowering the requirements for a snow day could save lives.

“We try to make an announcement as early as possible while watching for a variety of conditions,” superintendent Karl Heidrich said about the process of trying to make the best call for students.

Many students live in counties that don’t get the immediate response time they need. The majority of the roads in Michigan are country or back roads with “a total of 120,256 miles of paved roadway (9,669 route miles of state trunkline, 89,444 route miles of county roads, and 21,198 route miles of city and village streets),” according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In a school district that covers four counties, students scramble to make it to school when snowfall accumulates. Eastern and mid-Michigan areas yield a yearly average between 50-175 inches of snow according to the National Weather Service.

According to their own record, the Ingham County Road Department (ICRD) is responsible for more than 1,253 miles of roads outside incorporated cities and villages throughout Ingham County, employing 70 employees and 450 pieces of equipment to care for them.

If snowfall is continuous, we must keep clearing the primary roads as many times as necessary, which means the subdivisions and local roads are secondary to this priority,” ICRD Public Information Coordinator Kellie Knauff said.