Monday, March 19, 2007

Drive safely, Penn State

Eight and a half hours.

That’s how long it took me to travel from my hometown of Hanover, Pa. to State College on Friday.

I witnessed one accident, sat in at least three traffic jams and survived on Arby’s curly fries all to get back to Penn State in time for my 9 a.m. continuing education class on Saturday.

A couple things went through my mind during the trip.

One, thank God for curly fries.

Two, what would I do if the windshield wipers gave up?

Three, please please please don’t let too many Penn State students decide to jump in a car and race up to State College to make it back for a 7 a.m. start to the drinking fest of St. Patrick’s Day.

Maybe it’s the treacherous mountains of Route 322 or the likeliness of snow or rain during the trip. It could even be a college student’s thrill of being behind the wheel for the first time in weeks that causes so many students to die in car crashes on their way back to school.

Every winter or spring break I brace myself for news of the Penn State student or students who didn’t make it this time.

With 40,000 students traveling home and back by car, bus, plane and train, odds are someone will pay the ultimate price. Add alcohol to the mix, and I figured things could only get worse.

When I was a cops reporter, the worst part of the job by far was calling the families of students who died in car or other accidents. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the phone receiver.

So during my eight-and-a-half-hour journey, my news radar was up and all I could think about was the students whose mug shots would accompany their obituary on the Collegian’s front page this week.

Thankfully, this time, we didn't have this kind of news.