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SVP_AustinSetzler

The Dangerous Turn

Most school days, when one of my parents picks me up, we have to make a turn out of the school parking lot and onto a busy street, New Garden Road. Every time, there is a wait as cars in front of us turn onto the road and we inch up the line. When it is finally our turn to leave, we still have to wait as cars rip past us at 40 and 45 miles per hour, instead of the speed limit of 35. After waiting a few minutes, we can turn and are on our way.

So far this sounds more like an annoyance than something that truly necessitates change. However, one day after my mom had dropped me off, a car came barreling through at 50 miles per hour (15 above the speed limit) while my mom was turning. The cars collided, and the other driver’s front axle snapped in two. My mom’s car was almost totaled. It was likely a half‐second away from being fatal. Despite avoiding a true tragedy, there were certainly costs, like the cost of nearly totaling a car and the cost to both drivers of getting around while each car is in the shop.

Where would I be if my mom hadn’t been lucky enough to survive that crash? Maybe not here, writing this. Maybe I would no longer be able to afford to go to this school. I can’t pretend to know what losing someone in my family is like. I have been fortunate, and no one close to me has passed away. But I can imagine that it would be like a hole in my heart, a thousand thousand times larger than the pin pricks when I lose some game I want to win. Every human should have the basic right to life. If my mom had been killed because no one had gotten around to making the turn safer, that most certainly would be unfair. It most certainly would be unjust. That’s no one’s idea of equality.

When I started the prewriting process, my essay was supposed to focus on this one incident. After I began to flesh out my ideas, however, the parent of another child at my school was hit by a car in the same spot. Again, both drivers were likely an instant or a bad break away from serious injury or death. If one accident doesn’t prove that there is a problem with the system, we can see that two separate accidents in the same spot are no fluke. It is clear that change is necessary. I have decided to begin by talking to the head of school about this problem, as she will likely have more weight in a conversation with the local government than I do. If I can get the school engaged and active with this issue, then I will have more support when I continue to my next step. The North Carolina Department of Transportation allows “local authorities” to create a school zone, even if the school is private or religious. Fortunately, another parent at my school is on the local city council. I will bring the issue up with her, and be able to say that the school agrees with me on the issue.

I realize there is no way for me to change this problem by myself. I am not a local authority. I have neither the means nor the resources to make this section of New Garden Road a school zone, but I can help organize. If I take on the role of the organizer and get the cogs turning, maybe our city council can make this change a reality. Maybe the local government can stop accidents and possibly save lives. Maybe they can make the community safer and better. With the local government, the school, and the people who can truly make a difference in this matter, I can help create change.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2020

Austin Setzler (he/him), Grade 8, New Garden Friends School in Greensboro, N.C.

Posted in: Friends Face a Pandemic/Thin Spaces, Student Voices Project 2020

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