Central Police Officer advises students on winter safety and travel tips

Simone Corbett, Staff Reporter

With the majority of Central students being from the west side of Washington, concerns about traveling over Snoqualmie Pass is a hot discussion topic among students this time of year. As it should be, since such a scenic drive through the mountains can become an icy disaster within the blink of an eye.

“I learned all about winter safety over the course of two hours,” Jessie Hanna, psychology and military science major, said of her stressful drive back to Ellensburg after winter break. “I definitely was not prepared.”
Though traveling in the winter doesn’t have to be a nightmare, planning ahead can make all the difference.
University Police officer Todd Ames advises checking the weather conditions two days prior, so that you will have an idea of what the weather could be like on the day of your travel.
“Check the weather the morning before you leave, and about an hour before,” Ames said. “Don’t wait until you get to Cle Elum.”
If you expect to be traveling frequently through poor weather, it is incredibly important to obtain either chains or some form of weather permitting tires if your vehicle does not have four-wheel drive.
After the unexpected mishaps Hanna recently endured with her chains, she said she will be investing in studded tires next winter.
“If you can afford it, invest in studded tires,” Ames said. “If not, I recommend cable link chains as oppose to the regular ones. The metal on the regular cable chains is so sharp it cut my hand while I was putting them on.”
While you should practice installing your chains before hitting the road, Hanna said that there are normally plenty of people pulled over at the chain-up and chain-off stations along the pass who are willing to help a driver in need.
Ames said that if drivers happen to find themselves in unfortunate situations while traveling, it is important to stay in the vehicle.
“We are more likely to find your vehicle than you alone,” Ames said.
However, it’s not uncommon for chains to fall off if put on incorrectly.
“If they do fall off, then keep driving if possible,” Hanna said. “If not, then pull over and call for assistance.”
Ames said, to help avoid this problem, it is important to remember not to exceed 25 miles per hour when using chains.
The overall safest option when traveling in poor weather is to simply stay off the roads until they are completely clear. However, that is not always an option for college students and faculty who are running on a tight schedule. Fortunately, Ellensburg provides a shuttle service that runs through North Bend and two locations in Seattle.
Airporter Shuttle runs five trips a day, arriving and departing from the Starbucks near campus.
Airporter Shuttle commutes around 600-800 students a week throughout the winter months. During inclement weather, the amount of students that make use of the shuttle increases by one-third because it proves to be the safest method of travel according to Adrienne Booth,  director of sales and marketing for the Airporter.
“Our drivers are experienced. They’re used to chaining up and it’s overall remarkably safer than driving yourself,” Booth said. “It’s relaxing, stress free and economical.”
While planning ahead when commuting by vehicle is exceptionally important, remember not to overlook the significance of planning ahead when walking to class or throughout Ellensburg during icy conditions. It’s always best to give extra time to get places. This helps to avoid injuries (or embarrassment) in the long run.
“Most issues students encounter come from not allowing themselves enough time,” Ames said. “Time is your friend, plan ahead.”