Beep beep! Driving through Grinnell | – Scarlet and Black

By Ben Mikek
mikekben@grinnell.edu

Many Grinnellians are adding more to their workloads this semester and expanding their liberal arts education — not by writing papers or completing problem sets, but by learning to drive.

“[It’s] very slow, very slow. But yeah, it’s fun. I’m hoping to get my license soon,” said Farah Omer ’19. “It’s kind of slow because I have a schedule, but then things come up and I have to stop and do that thing, but I’m hoping, before the semester ends, I can get my driver’s license.”

Omer has now been practicing driving for about a month and says she started learning to drive at Grinnell because she did not get a good opportunity to do so earlier. “I went to boarding school for five years … so I missed a lot of the things that people learn to do between the ages of 14 and 19,” she said.

According to Omer, progress has nevertheless been good. And she isn’t the only Grinnell student learning to drive during their fourth year.

Marysia Ciupka ’19 is also learning the road rules and intricacies of driving as she finishes her final year at the College. She is learning to drive now because she has spent most of the time since her eighteenth birthday outside of her home country, Poland.

“It’s been really fun. I really enjoy it,” she said. “It also has become like a social thing. … When we go for a lesson, we hang out and we talk and catch up, and we also use that time to see the things around the Grinnell area that we wouldn’t have seen without having a car.”

The opportunity to see parts of Grinnell and Poweshiek County was a recurrent theme for the new drivers at Grinnell; both Omer and Ciupka mentioned it as something of a side benefit of learning to control a motor vehicle. Ciupka’s driving instructor, Andrea Baumgartel ’19, also noted the benefits of discovering new locations outside the orbit of the Grinnell campus.

“It’s … fun to show people different places on the outside of Grinnell that they might not have seen before,” she said. “There’s this one abandoned school far out, north of here. Before we’d driven, a lot of people hadn’t seen the [elementary and middle] schools.”

Even if it is an interesting sight, the abandoned school might not be the best place to plan a picnic.

“It looked kind of creepy,” said Ciupka of the same school. “We just got out of the car to check it out, and then this man appears … and he was really scary and he told us to get the fuck out, and he was kind of like threatening us. It was really weird.”

“It almost seemed like something sketchy was going on in that school,” she added, laughing, “as if he was, I don’t know, cooking meth in there or like, hiding dead bodies.”

Luckily, this abnormal encounter seems to have been the scariest moment so far for the student drivers.

“It’s really nice to drive in Iowa, because the roads are emptier,” said Baumgartel. “The biggest thing is watching out for animals and children because that’s always scary.”

There apparently have been no very close calls, aside from a few overshot turns and slowing down too soon for stop signs.

“It was not anything I saw myself doing,” Baumgartel said, who, despite some driving experience, is not a formal instructor. “I’m from Illinois, so I’ve been driving since diapers,” she said. “But these east coast people, they didn’t know where the brake pedal was.”

While it is true that rates of driving proficiency vary with geography, it is not a simple coastal phenomenon. The lowest rates of driver’s licensing in the country, according to the Federal Highway Administration, are in New York, Texas, Minnesota and Utah. The country is led by Indiana, where 864 of every 1,000 residents has a driver’s license.

Yet regardless of your background, it seems that Grinnell is not a bad place to learn to drive.

“It is a fun activity that we do. … It’s just an hour that I feel like I take a break from Grinnell and the craziness of the day,” Omer said. “In that sense, it’s also like, when it’s especially nice out, it acts as a break.”

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An Unsolicited Opinion: On .05 BAC Laws | – Scarlet and Black

By Katherine Moody
moodykat@grinnell.edu

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,874 people died in 2017 in motor vehicles crashes involving drivers with a BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, of .08 g/dL or higher. Those 10,874 people amounted to almost one third of the traffic deaths in 2017.

That more than 10,000 preventable deaths occurred is a tragedy, but the number also reflects the success of a decades-long national effort to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. In 1983, Utah and Oregon became the first states to lower the legal BAC from .10 to .08. In 2000, Congress followed suit and required states to adopt the .08 standard by 2004 or lose federal highway funds. By 2005, all states had instituted the .08 limit.

But more can still be done. The risk that drivers with a BAC between .05 and .079 will be in a fatal single vehicle crash is seven times that of drivers with no alcohol in their system, and NHTSA has endorsed further lowering the legal BAC to .05. It cites research that shows that lowering the legal BAC from 0.10 to .08 resulted in a 10.4% reduction in alcohol-related crash deaths and research that estimates that lowering the legal BAC to .05 would result in an 11.1% reduction in fatal alcohol crashes.

Utah has repeated history by becoming the first state to lower the legal BAC to .05. The law took effect on December 30, 2018.

The legislation caused controversy when Republican Representative Norm Thurston proposed it. The most outspoken opposition came from the restaurant industry. The American Beverage Institute, a trade group that lobbies on alcohol-related issues for restaurants and breweries, has been particularly vocal in its objection; the Institute’s website proclaims it is “leading the fight against 0.05.”

Critics of a lower legal BAC limit often allege that it will hurt the economy and waste police resources, and that the policy is evidence of the ever encroaching “nanny state.”

Members of the restaurant industry worry that a lower legal BAC will cause people to drink less or deter them from drinking entirely when they go out, hurting their bottom line. However, NHTSA notes that while lowering the legal BAC to .08 was associated with fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths, there was no observed change in alcohol consumption. NHTSA also points out that many countries have .05 or lower BAC limits and fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths even though their alcohol consumption per capita remains similar or greater than that in the United States.

The recent proliferation of ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft should also reassure those in the hospitality industry. It’s never been easier to go out, drink, and get home safely. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that a lower BAC limit will deter people from drinking in their local bars and restaurants. As Thurston’s website says, the law “is not about drinking; it is about separating drinking from driving.” And that separation doesn’t require people to change their level of alcohol consumption, just their way home.

Critics of the lower BAC limit also argue that the law will waste police resources and draw police attention away from those drivers who pose the most threat to public safety, the drivers with a .15 BAC or higher. Police in Utah don’t seem concerned. Troopers and officers in Utah are already arresting based on evidence of impairment says Sgt. Nick Street of the Utah Highway Patrol in an NPR report, “that standard is not going to change.” Street believes the law has already begun to work by keeping impaired individuals who might otherwise drive off the road.

The specter of the “nanny state” has also been invoked by some in opposition to the law. But is a lower BAC limit really government overreach? Ultimately, I don’t think so. While I think it’s prudent to be wary of the expansion of government power, I think Utah is acting appropriately in its attempt to save lives and that other states should follow its lead.

The fact of the matter is at .05 BAC, you are impaired. According to the NHTSA, a 160 pound man who has three drinks in an hour will likely reach a .05 BAC. At that level, drivers have, among over things, difficulty steering, reduced ability to track moving objects and a reduced response time to emergency situations. Why are we so comfortable with letting people hurtle down highways driving 4,000 pound cars at this level of impairment? We shouldn’t be. You have every right to go out and have several drinks with dinner, but the facts say that if you choose to drive home, you’re likely a danger to yourself and others. Why should that be your right?

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This BMW E61 5-Series Touring Has A V8 And A Six-Speed Manual – Carscoops

An E61-generation BMW 5-Series Touring outfitted with one of BMW’s most desirable non-M branded V8 engines is currently up for sale on BMWCCA for $19,500.

Now, before you complain, we will get the elephant out of the room straight away. Yes, the E61 Touring was sold in M5 guise and outfitted with a V10 engine but unfortunately, that model never made it to the United States. While sourcing that famous V10 and slotting it into a 5-Series Touring in the U.S. would be possible, it wouldn’t be cheap. The V8 used in this build is pretty special in its own right so we’re not complaining.

The V8 in question is the N62. Built between 2002 and 2010, the N62 was used by a plethora of BMW models, including the E60-generation sedan, X5, and even vehicles from both Morgan and Wiesmann. In range-topping guise, as found in the Alpine B5 S and B6 S, it pumped out a meaty 523 hp.

Also Read: BMW M5 E60 Takes On Lamborghini Gallardo In Fight Of The V10s

The seller of this E61 5-Series Touring hasn’t said which exact N62 engine the car features but the engine was rebuilt prior to being installed in the vehicle. No matter what the headline power and torque figures of the engine are, we’re confident they are more than enough to make this regular-looking BMW quite the potent little sleeper.

Beyond the engine, most of this 5-Series Touring remains stock. Consequently, it includes the aluminum Sport Package suspension system which includes rear self-leveling air suspension and modified suspension arms, knuckles, front and rear subframes, and front and rear strut housings.

The all-wheel drive system once found in the vehicle has been replaced and instead, there is the rear differential, driveshaft, axles, hubs, and wheel bearings of the 545i. The car also comes equipped with a six-speed stick shift. What’s not to like?

more photos…

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Former Burson-Marsteller MD hired to lead marcomms at new automotive venture – PRWeek

INEOS Automotive, founded in 2016, is a new division of the chemicals multinational INEOS. Under ‘Projekt Grenadier’, it plans to build a “practical, uncompromising and hard-working” four-wheel drive vehicle to replace the recently retired Land Rover Defender (see video below).

Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe, a car enthusiast and experienced adventurer, conceived the idea in a London pub called The Grenadier.

Everett brings more than 20 years of marketing and communications experience, including four years at Burson-Marsteller and senior comms roles at Alstom Power and healthcare firm Medela.

She also has extensive experience in senior advertising and brand roles at Lexus, Infiniti and IBM.

“It’s a great time to join the INEOS Group. I’ve been connected to the automotive industry for the past 17 years and opportunities like Projekt Grenadier for INEOS Automotive don’t come along often,” Everett said.

“I’m thrilled to be on the journey with a diverse team, as we develop our brand and build our new and uncompromising off-roader. In Projekt Grenadier, we will launch a straight talking, no-nonsense brand and utility vehicle that delivers a purpose. It won’t be an alternative to an SUV.”

Everett’s experience at automotive firms has included launching new products to market. This includes the Lexus hybrid powertrain for its RX range of SUVs and leading the brand launch of Infinity when it arrived in Europe in 2008.

At Burson-Marsteller, she was most recently MD under then-CEO Amanda Pierce, and was the EMEA PR lead on Walgreens Boots Alliance – one of WPP’s biggest clients.

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BMW To Power New Retro-Flavored SUV Dubbed Projekt Grenadier – Motor1.com

Ineos believes BMW “builds the best engines in the world.”

Chemical giant Ineos has moved one step closer to beginning the production of its first car by announcing a tie-up with BMW.

Dubbed Projekt Grenadier, the maiden automotive outing for the firm will be an SUV inspired by classic models like the Willys Jeep, Series 1 Land-Rover and J40 Toyota Land Cruiser. Thanks to the new partnership, the retro car will be powered by BMW’s TwinPower Turbo gasoline and diesel engines.

The company headed by Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already contracted former Mercedes-Benz offshoot MB tech in Germany to engineer the upcoming SUV, and Magna International – which also has Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW and Toyota as clients and also produces the Mini Countryman on behalf of BMW in Europe – to develop the new car’s chassis, which promises “no-frills utilitarianism, complete purity of purpose, unquestionable authenticity and ultimate engineering integrity.”

The Ineos Automotive operation in London has also achieved significant growth with the commercial, finance, supply chain, HR and IT teams now totaling 50 people.

“This technology partnership is a very significant milestone for Projekt Grenadier – we are delighted BMW Group will supply engines for our new off-roader,” said Dirk Heilmann, CEO of INEOS Automotive. “Its reputation as a maker of extremely reliable, high-performance engines that offer total durability, efficiency and quality is second to none.”

“Simply put, it builds the best engines in the world. Working with BMW Group is another major step forward in ensuring we deliver on our vision to build an uncompromising 4×4 with the ultimate in engineering integrity.”

With regards to production, Ineos is eyeing Ford’s factory in Bridgend, South Wales which currently produces engines for Jaguar Land Rover, despite both brands being sold to Tata in 2008.

With Jaguar Land Rover confirming that it will stop sourcing engines from the factory as soon as 2020, as many as 1,100 of Bridgend’s 1,700-strong workforce could be left without jobs.

However, Ineos previously confirmed to the Financial Times that it had “several great options” regarding production locations.

Source: Ineos Automotive

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Jim Ratcliffe: calls for fossil fuel sponsorship ban as petrochemical billionaire adopts cycling’s Team Sky – iNews

In brief

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of British petrochemicals conglomerate Ineos, will rebrand cycling giant Team Sky as Team Ineos following multi-million pound deal
  • Environmentalists have accused the company of ‘greenwashing’ to distract attention from its investments in fracking and plastic production
  • The billionaire has recently acquired a public profile after building a £21bn personal fortune from his privately-owned business

When Team Ineos makes its debut as the world’s best-funded cycling team in the Tour de Yorkshire in May, the peloton will pass through sumptuous landscapes that range from the Georgian splendour of Howden to David Hockney’s beloved Wolds.

Less likely to be noted by Team Ineos’s highly-paid stars will be the moment when their wheels zip through PEDL332 – one of 30 “blocks” across Britain where chemicals and energy giant Ineos – owned by the nation’s richest man in the shape of Sir Jim Ratcliffe  – holds a licence for the potential exploration of shale gas to be extracted by fracking.

While sending a shock wave through competitive cycling with its multi-million pound purchase of the hitherto all-conquering Team Sky, Ineos has complained bitterly about the seismic limits placed on fracking companies. Sir Jim recently described the rules as “absurd” and warned it was making attempts to establish a UK shale gas industry “unworkable”.

Environmental campaigners have been quick to call out Sir Jim’s decision to spend an undisclosed chunk of his £21.05bn personal fortune – earned from turning around unloved assets of the petro-chemicals sector – on a sport that prides itself on its eco-friendly credentials.

#passonplastic

Chris Froome (right) waves to the crowd alongside Team Sky during the Tour of Colombia (Photo: Getty)
Chris Froome (right) waves to the crowd alongside Team Sky during the Tour of Colombia (Photo: Getty)

When the 65-year-old industrialist, sometime Yorkshireman and keen endurance sportsman announced the deal earlier this month, he extolled the virtues of cycling, saying: “[It] continues to mushroom for the general public as it is seen to be good for fitness and health, together with easing congestion and pollution in city environments. Ineos is delighted to take on the responsibility of running such a professional team.”

“This sort of greenwashing activity now needs to be stopped and fossil fuel advertising in sport banned”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth

What is as yet unclear is whether Team Ineos will continue to carry the slogan “#PassOnPlastic” emblazoned on its Team Sky shirts for the 2018 Tour de France. The branding was a nod to a high-profile campaign to reduce the estimated 160m tonnes of single-use plastics produced globally each year (with Team Sky pledging to eliminate its share by 2020).

Were such a goal to be achieved, it would risk putting a dent in the fortunes of Sir Jim and his company.

Ineos, which last year made record profits of £5.3bn on sales of £46bn and has recently expanded into gas and oil, is one of Europe’s largest plastic producers and dominates production of ethylene, a key chemical building block for items from toothpaste caps to car components.

Environmental groups argue that the Team Sky deal, alongside a £110m investment in a venture with Olympian sailor Ben Ainslie to try to win the America’s Cup yacht race, amounts to so-called “greenwashing” – an attempt to deflect criticism of a company’s environmental record by backing high-profile eco-friendly causes.

Greenwashing activity

Geraint Davies rides for Team Sky during a homecoming event in Cardiff (Photo: Getty)
Geraint Davies rides for Team Sky during a homecoming event in Cardiff (Photo: Getty)

Read more:

Ineos chairman compares damage caused by fracking to ‘getting a puncture’

Sir Jim Ratcliffe: UK’s richest man and prominent Brexiteer ‘to leave for Monaco’ in tax plan

Doing a Brexit deal shouldn’t be too difficult, says UK’s richest man

Now Friends of the Earth has gone further by telling iweekend that it urgently wants to see a sports sponsorship and advertising ban on “fossil fuel” companies such as Ineos, arguing that the public health dangers posed by issues such as climate change and air pollution are of a similar magnitude to tobacco, which has been subject to an advertising ban since 2003.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of FoE, said: “Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos are the pantomime villains of British business and climate change. From fracking to plastics to promoting reliance on gas and oil, they appear determined to keep us locked into a high-carbon economy.

“It is for this reason that their purchase of Team Sky is deeply depressing. It is a human-powered sport with fans who care passionately about the environment. Ineos does not fit into that agenda.

“This sort of greenwashing activity now needs to be stopped and fossil fuel advertising in sport banned because of the health risks posed by these industries. It is effectively no different to tobacco advertising.”

Putting noses out of joint

Sir Jim Ratcliffe emerged last year as Britain’s richest man on the back of his 60 per cent stake in petrochemicals conglomerate Ineos. Environmentalists have criticised the company’s decision to buy cycling giants Team Sky and rebrand it Team Ineos. (Photo: Getty)
Sir Jim Ratcliffe emerged last year as Britain’s richest man on the back of his 60 per cent stake in petrochemicals conglomerate Ineos (Photo: Getty)

Neither Ineos nor its stoic founder, who celebrated his 60th birthday by running a 55-mile ultramarathon in South Africa and then riding a motorbike across the country with a broken foot, are strangers to controversy or an eye-catching headline.

From Brexit (Sir Jim is an ardent enthusiast, though he has expressed disappointment at progress thus far) to tax (Ineos transferred its headquarters from London to Switzerland for five years following a spat with the then Labour government over VAT payments), the company has repeatedly shown it is unafraid to take a robust stance. As one industry insider put it: “If noses are put out of joint, then the attitude at Ineos is likely to be ‘so be it’.”

The company, which has 20,000 employees in 24 countries, did not respond to requests to comment on FOE’s criticisms. But it has insisted that it is a good corporate citizen and called out what it says is “misinformation” about activities such as fracking – arguing for example that the fact that a million shale gas and oil wells have been sunk in America proves the technique’s safety.

Sir Jim has pledged to take measures to try to halt the tide of plastics flowing into the world’s oceans and the company says it will recycle 800,000 tonnes of PVC, the world’s third most widely used polymer, a year in Europe by 2020.

True grit

Ineos has spent £1bn on building tankers to ship ethane, a cheap shale gas by-product, from America to its vast plant in Grangemouth, near Edinburgh. The company says the investment has secured the future of the Scottish refinery. (Photo: Getty)
Ineos has spent £1bn on building tankers to ship ethane, a cheap shale gas by-product, from America to its vast plant in Grangemouth, near Edinburgh. The company says the investment has secured the future of the Scottish refinery. (Photo: Getty)

Indeed, after spending the best part of two decades quietly growing into what is by several measures Britain’s largest privately-owned company (Sir Jim holds 60 per cent and the remainder is split between his two co-founders – a triumvirate described by Ineos as “three unassuming northern grammar school boys”), Ineos increasingly believes it has a story to tell.

Not least is the “true grit” trajectory of Ratcliffe, who was born to relatively humble beginnings as the son of a joiner and an accounts worker in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, before the family moved to the Yorkshire town of Beverley, where Jim attended the grammar school.

“When he wants to do something, he does it wholeheartedly, whether it’s a megadeal for gas tankers or walking to the North Pole.”

After a career in industry with companies from Esso to Courtaulds, he moved into venture capital before striking out on his own with his trademark wolfish grin and eye for acquiring the neglected petrochemical assets of companies such as BP.

Whereas many plutocrats prefer to keep the scale of their wealth vague, it is a mark of Sir Jim’s newly unapologetic stance about his success that he last year granted the authors of the Sunday Times Rich List access to Ineos’s accounts and an inventory of his assets after complaining that the scale of his wealth had been grossly underestimated.

As a result his estimated fortune rose by £15.3bn and his ranking on the list rose from 18th to top of the list on the basis of the value of Ineos and baubles ranging from a mansion near Beaulieu in Hampshire and two superyachts, the largest of which – Hampshire II – features a zipwire allowing guests to travel from the crows nest into the sea.

Doing it wholeheartedly

A Land Rover Defender off-road vehicle before it went out of production in 2016 (Photo: Getty)
A Land Rover Defender off-road vehicle before it went out of production in 2016 (Photo: Getty)

Those who know the industrialist, say his recent emergence into the limelight is explained by the same maverick side to his personality which persuaded him to put some £600m into Projeckt Grenadier – his venture to build a utilitarian 4×4 vehicle to succeed the now-defunct Land Rover Defender. The enterprise is named after the pub in London’s Mayfair where the 4×4 was first discussed over a lunchtime pint.

One industry source, who has known Sir Jim for much of the last two decades, said: “What you have remember about Jim is that he’s actually quite a passionate guy. The greenwashing thing is a bit unfair. His commitment to sport and fitness is genuine – he wants to get kids in schools running.

“When he wants to do something, he does it wholeheartedly, whether it’s a megadeal for gas tankers or walking to the North Pole. At the same time, he hasn’t got where he is without knowing how to cut a deal and dig in against opposition. His head tells him to make money but I’d say he’s now letting his heart spend a bit of it.”

It is perhaps with this in mind that Sir Jim, a Manchester United fan, is widely held to have recently tabled a £2bn bid to wrest Chelsea FC from the grip of fellow magnate Roman Abramovich. The offer, which might have been said to fit the Ratcliffe template of seeking to acquire an asset no longer cherished as much as it once was by its present owner, appears to have been firmly rejected.

‘Deeply pro-British’

Sir Jim Ratcliffe pictured in Antwerp this year (Photo: Getty)
Sir Jim Ratcliffe pictured in Antwerp this year (Photo: Getty)

Nonetheless, Britain’s richest man is not losing his penchant for causing friction.

Ineos was this week accused of “dodging environmental safeguards” after it emerged it wrote to the Government late last year seeking to defer compliance with EU directives on waste limits at its Seal Sands chemicals plant in Middlesbrough. The company warned that unless deferral was possible it might be forced to close the site at a cost of up to 2,000 local jobs.

Sir Jim has himself come in for sharp criticism after it emerged that he is moving to Monaco and in so doing is likely to avoid, perfectly legally, anywhere between £400m and £4bn in tax that would have been due to the Treasury.

All of which, say the Ineos founder’s critics, sits uncomfortably with his previous declaration that he is “deeply pro-British”.

It is jibe over which the industrialist may lose little sleep.

Among other deeds to mark the 20th anniversary this year of the founding of Ineos, Sir Jim has commissioned a heraldry expert to draw up a coat of arms for the company. Its Latin motto of “Veni, Emi, Vici” translates as:  “I came, I bought, I conquered.”

Sir Jim’s own ‘uncompromising off-roader’

A selection of model Land Rover Defender off-road vehicles displayed during an exhibition to promote a charity auction of the two-millionth Land Rover Defender in 2015. It ceased production in 2016. (Photo: Getty)
A selection of model Land Rover Defender off-road vehicles displayed during an exhibition to promote a charity auction of the two-millionth Land Rover Defender in 2015. It ceased production in 2016. (Photo: Getty)

Like many men of a certain age, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has a soft spot for the cars of his youth – in his case the original utilitarian 4×4 in the shape of the Land Rover Defender.

Unlike many people, the industrialist also has the wherewithal to fund his desire for a spiritual successor to the boxy and beloved Defender after Jaguar Land Rover ceased production of the original in 2016 (albeit with a promised replacement due later this year).

The industrialist, who has previously described himself as “deeply pro-British”,  has said he is prepared to spend as much as £600m on the vehicle, named Projekt Grenadier after the pub close his company’s headquarters in London’s Mayfair where it was originally conceived over a lunchtime pint.

The desire for what Sir Jim has called an “uncompromising off-roader”  is said to have led to a retro-design with a stripped back interior, including plug holes allowing it to be hosed out. In the words of the project’s commercial director, it will “not be a Chelsea tractor”.

The “Britishness” of the vehicle remains a subject for debate. It was announced earlier this month that the “Grenadier” will be powered by BMW engines after the design work for the 4×4 was completed by another German company.

Ineos has said it is still deciding where the 25,000 vehicles a year it expects to produce will be made.

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Zeer tevreden klant

Een van onze trouwe klanten die al jaren lang bij ons brommobiel rijdt. Van Microcar een keer een uitstap gemaakt naar Chatenet maar toen weer snel terug naar Ligier.  En nu al weer de derde Ligier. Van harte gefeliciteerd en veel rijplezier. De eerste nu met Airco dus laat die zomer maar komen!

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Beep beep! Driving through Grinnell | – Scarlet and Black

By Ben Mikek
mikekben@grinnell.edu

Many Grinnellians are adding more to their workloads this semester and expanding their liberal arts education — not by writing papers or completing problem sets, but by learning to drive.

“[It’s] very slow, very slow. But yeah, it’s fun. I’m hoping to get my license soon,” said Farah Omer ’19. “It’s kind of slow because I have a schedule, but then things come up and I have to stop and do that thing, but I’m hoping, before the semester ends, I can get my driver’s license.”

Omer has now been practicing driving for about a month and says she started learning to drive at Grinnell because she did not get a good opportunity to do so earlier. “I went to boarding school for five years … so I missed a lot of the things that people learn to do between the ages of 14 and 19,” she said.

According to Omer, progress has nevertheless been good. And she isn’t the only Grinnell student learning to drive during their fourth year.

Marysia Ciupka ’19 is also learning the road rules and intricacies of driving as she finishes her final year at the College. She is learning to drive now because she has spent most of the time since her eighteenth birthday outside of her home country, Poland.

“It’s been really fun. I really enjoy it,” she said. “It also has become like a social thing. … When we go for a lesson, we hang out and we talk and catch up, and we also use that time to see the things around the Grinnell area that we wouldn’t have seen without having a car.”

The opportunity to see parts of Grinnell and Poweshiek County was a recurrent theme for the new drivers at Grinnell; both Omer and Ciupka mentioned it as something of a side benefit of learning to control a motor vehicle. Ciupka’s driving instructor, Andrea Baumgartel ’19, also noted the benefits of discovering new locations outside the orbit of the Grinnell campus.

“It’s … fun to show people different places on the outside of Grinnell that they might not have seen before,” she said. “There’s this one abandoned school far out, north of here. Before we’d driven, a lot of people hadn’t seen the [elementary and middle] schools.”

Even if it is an interesting sight, the abandoned school might not be the best place to plan a picnic.

“It looked kind of creepy,” said Ciupka of the same school. “We just got out of the car to check it out, and then this man appears … and he was really scary and he told us to get the fuck out, and he was kind of like threatening us. It was really weird.”

“It almost seemed like something sketchy was going on in that school,” she added, laughing, “as if he was, I don’t know, cooking meth in there or like, hiding dead bodies.”

Luckily, this abnormal encounter seems to have been the scariest moment so far for the student drivers.

“It’s really nice to drive in Iowa, because the roads are emptier,” said Baumgartel. “The biggest thing is watching out for animals and children because that’s always scary.”

There apparently have been no very close calls, aside from a few overshot turns and slowing down too soon for stop signs.

“It was not anything I saw myself doing,” Baumgartel said, who, despite some driving experience, is not a formal instructor. “I’m from Illinois, so I’ve been driving since diapers,” she said. “But these east coast people, they didn’t know where the brake pedal was.”

While it is true that rates of driving proficiency vary with geography, it is not a simple coastal phenomenon. The lowest rates of driver’s licensing in the country, according to the Federal Highway Administration, are in New York, Texas, Minnesota and Utah. The country is led by Indiana, where 864 of every 1,000 residents has a driver’s license.

Yet regardless of your background, it seems that Grinnell is not a bad place to learn to drive.

“It is a fun activity that we do. … It’s just an hour that I feel like I take a break from Grinnell and the craziness of the day,” Omer said. “In that sense, it’s also like, when it’s especially nice out, it acts as a break.”

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