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On the road – Stories of Malvern Mishaps

Four Malvern students share their frightening experiences behind the wheel, and give advice to their fellow peers on the road.

Shocked. Bewildered. Fearful of the wreckage that a ton of metal might have caused on himself and those around him.

Those were the thoughts of Malvern junior Patrick McNally-Heinemann when he crashed his Mercedes-Benz into the Malvern entrance sign on November 28.

McNally went to Wawa with his friend junior Andrew Knaus after school that day. It was a rainy afternoon with fall leaves on the ground. McNally-Heinemann pulled up to the intersection for the entrance into Malvern and began making the right turn. Suddenly, he realized something was wrong.

“I slid on leaves and just lost control of the car, and I wasn’t going to make the turn,” McNally-Heinemann said. “I was going to crash into the sign, so I tried to turn back out onto Warren Ave. and I spun into the sign.”

The car went straight through the right side of the sign and the wall of stones that lay behind it. McNally-Heinemann sat in his car for a few moments, hoping he didn’t cause any damage to himself, Knaus, or the cars around him.

“I was shocked almost, I was shaking from what happened,” McNally-Heinemann said.

“I was shocked almost, I was shaking from what happened,” McNally-Heinemann said.

The two juniors got out of the car to assess the damage, and it wasn’t pretty. Luckily, no one was hurt. However, a large chunk of the sign and much of the rocks in the wall laid scattered on the ground, and the car was totaled.

“The damage was worth 96% of the value,” McNally-Heinemann said. “The engine got destroyed and stuff like that just because of how I hit the wall.”

The car was eventually towed away, and the sign was repaired a few days later. However, McNally-Heinemann will change how he drives because of this, as it was only two months after he got his license.

“I’ll probably just not go to Wawa anymore, I don’t think I’m allowed to,” McNally-Heinemann said. “I’ll probably just go a lot slower than I was, I wasn’t speeding or anything, just be a lot more careful in bad weather.”

Dean of Students Mr. Timothy Dougherty said that this definitely has not been the first time an accident has occurred on campus.

“One student who just recently got his license was driving his Jeep Cherokee and had his windows down and the Villa cross country team was running by, and he was waving, looking at them and there was a bus in front of him on a speed bump back when we had bigger speed bumps. He went right under the bus and the bus came down on top of his car,” Dougherty said.

And this was just one example. Students backing into walls and sliding down the hill of the junior lot were two other examples of incidents that have happened multiple times. But these accidents are much less frequent than what he sees on a more regular basis.

“I’ve seen speeding, exorbitantly over the 10 mile an hour speed limit, failure to stop at stop signs, horseplay, kids who are jumping at a car or running to hit their friends car, swerving around the speed bumps in the grass,” Dougherty said.

Discipline for these behaviors ranges from a warning to a revoking of driving privileges on campus for two weeks, which can be a difficulty for students and parents according to Dougherty. He doesn’t hand these punishments out often, usually either one or two a month he said.

Just one day after McNally-Heinemann’s crash, another accident occurred at the Malvern entrance intersection. Senior Jimmy Dugan was a witness to the incident.

“After a long and hard winter track practice, I pulled up to the entrance of Malvern, and as I was about to turn out left, I saw a car 180 degrees flipped over due to another Malvern car pulling out and the two colliding,” Dugan said.

Dugan said that his car was thankfully not involved in the wreckage, and no one was hurt except one elderly woman who had to be pulled away on a stretcher. Dugan said that the woman was not seriously injured, however.

Dougherty can monitor student driving on campus, but not off campus. That is where the student driver is on his own. Junior Pat Keenan got his license in July, and he shared some of his unfortunate experiences on the road.

“A lady knocked my mirror off when she crossed the double yellow line. I backed into a car because I couldn’t see it when it was lower than my car. I looked at my rear view mirror and I couldn’t see it. Another one was when I tapped another person’s car, but no damage was done.”

For the lady who knocked off his side mirror, he was on his way to school, so he rolled down his window and talked with the woman to see if she was alright. He got a new mirror on the way there from a car dealership. For the other accidents, he had to get his bumper repaired for one, but not the other.

“Two were my fault but no one was in the car so it had to be my fault,” Keenan said with a laugh.

Another former Malvern student, Hunter Peck ’16, has a cautionary tale about driving in icy conditions. He got in an accident in spring 2016.

“It was 1:00 in the afternoon when I was coming from Malvern up to my house up near Quakertown, and it just started to snow,” Peck said. “The roads were still pretty clear but when I got up there, on some shadier country roads I hit an icy patch and swerved a couple of times and went straight across the other side of the road and hit a tree head on at somewhere between 35-40 miles per hour.”

Peck said it happened so fast that he could only remember the moment he started skidding, and then when the tree smashed into his car.

“You wouldn’t believe how fast it happened,” Peck said. “But in that moment I was amazed at how little control you have when you hit a patch of ice like that.”

“You wouldn’t believe how fast it happened,” Peck said. “But in that moment I was amazed at how little control you have when you hit a patch of ice like that.”

Peck admitted that he should have been driving slower.

“That was a spot where I’ve seen dozens of cars crash over the years, and it was really just a combination of everything that could have gone wrong,” Peck said. “I was just blessed I got out of it virtually unharmed. If I didn’t hit the tree head on, if I hit the tree with the side of the car, it could have been a lot worse.”

Peck used to drive “pretty fast” but now lowers his speed during slippery conditions.

“Don’t think you are invincible in inclement road conditions, definitely when it is snowing or raining,” Peck said.

And that’s what Dougherty fears the most about student drivers, that they could become too careless behind the wheel and cause damage.

“We’ve never had someone get hurt, but that happens with kids who are not paying attention,” Dougherty said. “That’s the biggest thing, to make sure the campus is safe.”

Dugan and Dougherty had key advice for young drivers for both on and off campus situations.

“Drive safely, and never think the other person will help you out at all,” Dugan said.

“Pay attention,” Dougherty said. “Be aware that there are always kids running around in the bus lanes or in the roads. Stay safe.”

About Dan Malloy

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