In Overdrive


Dylan Graff

Students discuss the responsibilities gained when getting a license.

Josh Barnavon ’24 said his heart pounded as he walked into the Winnetka Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). After six months of practice with both his parents and driving teacher to fulfill the 50 hour mandate required by the state, Barnavon said he finally felt ready to get behind the wheel for the test. During his exam, Barnavon said he was on high alert: he exaggerated his head movements, stopped behind limit lines and made sure to check his blindspot before every lane change. When he finally passed, he said it felt extremely gratifying. In fact, Barnavon only got two marks off, which he said made him overly confident in his driving abilities.

“Right after I got my license, I thought I was invincible,” Barnavon said. “I would drive around above the speed limit. It was very aggressive and careless driving on my behalf.”

Then, just a month after getting his license, he crashed. Barnavon said he hit a trash can on the side of the road as he was swerving to avoid a truck. He completely destroyed the right mirror of his car. Though he wasn’t injured, Barnavon said the accident was a wake-up call for him and his family.

“It was very shocking,” Barnavon said. “To be honest, I didn’t think I would be getting in a car crash that soon after getting my license. My parents were obviously disappointed in me, but in a way, they were kind of glad that it was only a minor accident and that I learned my lesson early on.”

For students at the school, small crashes like this occur frequently. According to the school’s record, there were 35 reported accidents alone last year. Earl Saunders, a security guard at the school who oversees the senior lot, said that due to the high demand for parking spots, many students are forced to fit their cars into small spaces, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

While the school attempted to remedy this issue by proposing a parking structure in 2017, the city planning commission struck down the idea and no further progress has been made. Saunders also said that the inexperience of student drivers also contributes to the number of accidents.

“ [Bad parking] is inherent in high school parking lots,” Saunders said. “Usually, in a high school parking lot most spots are taken, so it’s kind of tight. You have new drivers, and sometimes because of the way other students have parked, it makes it hard for the student to get out of their spot. It’s [characteristic] of a high school to have minor traffic accidents.”

Students discuss the Instagram account that documents parking at the school.

Despite the difficulty of the school’s parking situation, students are still held accountable for their mistakes. ‘hw.parking’, an Instagram account, documents poor parking jobs both in the lot and areas surrounding it.

The first photo on the account was posted in 2017 when Tyler Cox ’19 created an account pointing out the flaws in student parking. Photos included cars blocking driveways, cars far from the curb and cars parked in the wrong direction. Since then, the account has changed hands twice, with the current graduates who run it adapting the page to include any and all vehicle blunders.

Julius*, one of the owners of the account, said it was started because the issue was especially bad when students parked in residential areas. Julius chose to stay anonymous to avoid confrontations and takedown requests.

“It started to document just how bad the parking [at our school] was,” Julius said. “It used to be really bad when people were parking on Halkirk, and while that doesn’t happen anymore, the issue was even bigger then.”

In the past school year alone, followers of the account have seen multiple accidents, including a car crash into Weiler Hall and a truck that crashed into the fence bordering the school on Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Julius said the photos of these crashes are usually accompanied by a caption poking fun at the driver. They said adding these captions helped grow the account by nearly 400 followers in the previous school year. Even though there is humor in many of the account’s posts, Julius said that the account’s primary purpose is still to hold students accountable for their parking.

“The captions are always funny, and it is something for people to laugh at,” Julius said. “But it’s also a deterrent against parking really badly because there’s always the risk you’re going to end up on the account.”

While some students feel public shaming is too dramatic for a parking error, Julius said that there have to be consequences for people who park selfishly.

“ Some people drive in the lot without a care of the way they park and the way they affect other people,” Julius said. “Sometimes a parking job is so bad that the person next to you can’t even park in their spot. It’s inconsiderate, honestly, and the account does kind of shame those people.”

While collisions can often be attributed to honest mistakes, Julius said they think students at the school are entitled when it comes to both driving and parking.

“There are [not] many students, if any, that are paying for their own car,” Julius said. “A lot of people around the country that don’t go to [the school] and aren’t in the top one percent will work for a summer to buy a used car and take really good care of it. A lot of students don’t care that much because their parents are going to fix any dent they get anyway. The worst thing they have to worry about is being yelled at by their mom.”

Lily Stambouli ’24, who drove to school last year, said that the account is extremely effective in improving students’ parking skills.

“[The account] is super entertaining, but it also scares me into parking better,” Stambouli said. “Sometimes my dad will send the photos to me and be concerned that it’s my car. To be honest, I don’t know if I’m more scared of scratching another car or being on [the account].”

The school community reflects on the privilege involved in driving and whether or not it has been misused.

Former Features Editor Alec Rosenthal ’22, who reported an incident to the account, said he enjoys laughing at his peers’ parking debacles.

“I knew the people who were running the account, and I thought it would be really funny to send in my friend’s car getting scraped up,” Rosenthal said. “It’s something about sending in videos of people you know making absolute idiots of themselves with their cars. It’s just a really funny and unique account to have.”

Rosenthal said that he has even begun to reference the account to people outside of the school community because of how ridiculous he thinks some of the documented events are. Although Julius graduated from the school this past June, he said that those like Rosenthal will still be able to see all of the parking blunders in the coming school year.

“[Passing down the account] is just one of the responsibilities I took on when I inherited the account,” Julius said. “I didn’t start ‘hw.parking,’ I’m just part of what is hopefully a long history of the account.”

*Names have been changed