Reader Mail

Eyes on the Road

A difficult task for teen drivers. Astros fans turn out. Pumping gas prices. Defending Dover against Neumayr and Aristotle. Plus much more.

10.24.05

Send to Kindle

LESSONS FOR LIFE
Re: Lawrence Henry's Danger Street:

According to the quote from Mr. Henry's article describing his choice for a babysitter to care for his children, she's just the type of soul to whom I would entrust my children! Perhaps Mr. Henry should worry less about the rest of Ashley's friends and worry about her inability to plan ahead when she is watching his offspring!
-- Vincent Mohan
Englewood, New Jersey

I have an 18-year-old stepdaughter who has been driving for 3 years now. She has been involved in 1 accident already, she was impacted by the other driver encroaching into her lane. When I asked her why she did not see the other driver she stated she was distracted â€" 3 other girls in the car. And that seems to be the trend talking to other parents with daughters driving. The female passengers get into the passion of talking, the driver eventually succumbs as well and bam! That's when it happens, the driver is not watching the road. And yes I have told her that driving is a full time occupation from the time you enter the vehicle till you leave it.

Many of the towns here in Dallas-Fort Worth have curfews. But it does not seem to minimize the traffic accidents. Texas has a law that no driver with a learner's permit may have more than 3 people in the car. One of which has to be a licensed driver over 21. Much better I think that such laws be extended, that no more than two occupants of the vehicle till they are 18.

But as a parent about all you can do is worry and hope they get by with a scrape that triggers the epiphany that high speed metal is dangerous stuff.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

Young teenage drivers will only be controlled when their parents grow up and choose to do so. This is a mindset that many parents have; that they have to be their teenager's cool friend. This is exactly why teenagers across the country are wrapping themselves around immovable objects. How many of us as parents have sat and waited to pick our kids up from high school and observed what young people are driving today.

Ford Expeditions, Mustangs, GM Tahoes and the list of high-cost vehicles goes on and on. These high powered and large vehicles are not owned by Mom and Dad, but rather they are their kid's vehicles that the parents bought for them at their sixteenth birthday. Gone are the days of junior driving and the old underpowered hand-me-down vehicle that went 50 miles per hour with a good wind behind it. Instead today Mom and Dad drives the older vehicle, because the poor little darling of a teenager couldn't be caught dead driving into the high school parking lot in anything less than a Mustang or Suburban.

The usual feeble excuse given by parents is that the reason we purchased an SUV for their child is, "We want our baby to be safe when they're driving." The problem with this theory is that these parents haven't seen their sweet innocent child with a cell phone jammed in their ear and the back filled with screaming friends blasting out of the local high school parking lot like an Abrams tank practically shoving or crushing anything in their path. If the parents do take notice it's usually done with a shrug and a nonsensical comment, "Oh honey isn't our darling child so cute and grown up."

If anyone would ask these, "cool parents" if they would allow their child to carry a handgun in the glove compartment of their child's vehicle to make the child more safe, the almost instantaneous response would be, "Hell no, no self-respecting parent would put a dangerous weapon in the hands of a child." These parents won't put a 4 lb weapon in the hands of their kids but instead they put a 3000 lb. weapon in their kid's hands under the guise of being more safe.

How many times have the media identified vehicle accidents with teenagers as, "SUV kills 3 area teenagers in late night crash"? It is, the blame always falls on the vehicle and not the driver. "Oh, no, she won't go to jail," Ashley kept saying as noted by Lawrence Henry. This young girl was so sure that her severely injured friend would bear no responsibility for the accident. Have we parents gone so far in one direction to shield our children from the harsh realities of life and its consequences that we literally assure them, "It's okay baby it wasn't your fault, it was that big old bad vehicle's fault that you wrapped around an oak tree last night and killed your friends." So junior takes a deep breath feeling all refreshed from being absolved of any responsibility and gleefully looks at mom and dad and promptly asks them, "Can we go to the auto dealership and look for another vehicle after Suzy's funeral."

We as a society don't need any more new laws named after dead children, no new ordnances, nothing other than the fact that parents should impress upon their teenagers that if you drive recklessly you could be killed and or severely injured along with your friends. Bottom line: Parents should stop trying to be their kid's friends and go back to being the parent. Try saying, "No" once in a while, it is an acquired habit. It will make your baby boo hoo and stomp around and pout, but at least your baby is alive to stomp and pout â€" and they will get over it like everything else in the life and times of a young teenager.
-- Melvin L. Leppla
Jacksonville, North Carolina

To help prevent the higher proportion of teen, and in particular female teen driving deaths, Lawrence Henry proposes, "High-speed hazard driving courses for all drive-training students." To this idea I say, it's a nice sentiment and timely reminder of our powerful belief in "education" to solve ills but will prove akin to training one how to become expert at slamming the barn door after the horse has fled.

I drive 40,000 miles annually all over the southern third of Florida and witness daily the incredibly stupid acts of drivers, particularly the young, much too busy with other matters to drive. The preoccupation with everything under the sun but steering and focusing the eyes through the windshield is not so much an act of willful neglect or danger-seeking so much as just simple obliviousness to the world outside their air-conditioned, +300watt sound-pumpin' 'n thumpin' cabin.

A modern fighter jet's cockpit has been called the most stressful environment known to man due to the many aircrafts systems, informational and threat feedback devices that must be continuously monitored by the pilot at incredible speeds with his life depending on not missing a crucial bit of data that may provide him only a split-second to act, and act appropriately, or die. All the while he must also "keep his head on a swivel" lest he "lose sight, lose fight." Sounds a bit like driving a car in modern times with all of our self-imposed distractions doesn't it? But even a frontline air-to-air pilot doesn't face the sheer number of random threats approaching from all directions that a contemporary driver does today and if he has to break in any direction he doesn't risk being stopped by a utility pole, tree, or other stationary and immovable object, save the ground. So long as he has altitude he need only worry about a much less relative number of threats. With all that we try to do in a car these days while careening along the highway, I'd say the humble auto may have surpassed the fighter as the most stressful place.

And it's the young who are into the most modern distractions ranging from cell phones to gameboys to text messaging behind the wheel. The problem I think we see in the rising number of teen-aged driving deaths is a lethal combination of modern, relatively high-powered, fast accelerating cars, way too many distractions, alcohol and immature exuberance. It's all of a piece, the same immature driver who has virtually no to little road experience gets into a modern car easily capable of reaching +80mph quickly and proceeds to engage in many distractions from his ability to drive safely which is underdeveloped at best or nonexistent at worse.

No amount of strictly driving training and practice will save some drivers and those in their paths who have lost control of a vehicle going 70-90mph because she was chatting on her cell-phone, putting on lipstick, smoking a cigarette, adjusting the tunes, drinking a beer, doing whatever rap enthusiasts call "dancing" in her seat all while turned to talk and laugh with her friends at the crucial moment she should have had her hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the road ahead. Not that we know any of this about the girls in the story but I see all this and more going on in one driver's seat routinely. Add to the list, reading, writing, laptops, DVD players, grooming, and more. Adults are certainly not immune to this recent phenomenon either.

I don't profess to have an answer but until we get back to actually driving while we're driving I'd bet the trend amongst the young continues if not worsens.
-- Mark Shepler
Jupiter, Florida

I also read somewhere that the stats go up as the number of kids in the car goes up.

I remember choosing to drive my friends around because I couldn't stand having one of them drive. My parents preferred that, too. I seemed to have more sense and was less distracted while they were silly and talkative, especially if there were 2 or more in the car with me. My parents didn't worry about me so much when I was driving.

How many times have you sat at a stop light and looked over at a car load of girls and seen all the chit chat and primping in the rear view mirror?

Guys are less likely to drive around with more than 2 or 3 in the car. The 3rd doesn't want to sit in the back seat of a car or in the middle if it's a pickup -- it's dorky looking.
-- Sue Ellen Hirtle

UNDERDOG 'STROS
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Players at the Ball:

I just read your article on the World Series and want to thank you for being so gracious. I'm a native Houstonian, so you know where my allegiance lies. I've watched Houston teams choke so often over the years that I learned the Heimlich maneuver. Of course, there were the back-to-back NBA championships for the Rockets, but those will always have an asterisk noting that Michael Jordan didn't play those years.

I have to agree that win or lose, both teams are real champions. While I want to see the 'Stros win, if they lose, they will lose to a team just as deserving. I know the media is disappointed that New York, L.A., or Boston was involved, but to heck with them. These underdog teams are what make baseball great.

So again, I just wanted to thank you for such a great article.
-- Carol Crowley

I attended my first Major league game in the Astrodome when I was 12. The Astros won a doubleheader. After college, I took a job in Houston and went to quite a few games. I have long been an Astros fan. So imagine my dilemma. The White Sox have two stars who are Cuban refugees. Their presence on the roster is a thumb in Castro's eye. I desperately want to cheer for them. Oh, how do I resolve this?
-- Mike Bergsma

Just for the record, I find no evidence that Roy Oswalt has ever been to Oklahoma; he was born and raised in Weir, Mississippi (well, actually, born in nearby Kosciusko -- I'm not sure there was a hospital in all of Choctaw County back in 1977) and still lives there in the off-season.

Apart from that one error of fact, and the judgment error of backing the wrong team in the Series (although I admit it's a close call), I enjoyed the article immensely. I expect to enjoy the Series even more, however!
-- Kerry Jones
Professor of Mathematics, Ball State University
Ph.D. Rice University, '90
Astros fan as long as I can remember.

COMMEMORATING COMMITMENT
Re: David Hogberg's Bob Morrish, RIP:

Thank you for honoring Robert's positive influence on the lives of his students at Justin-Siena High School for nearly four decades. Like you I appreciated his sense of humor, intellectual curiosity, and his commitment to his students. In 1962-63 I had the privilege of having Robert in class during his senior year -- civics/political science -- at Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley, California. Saint Mary's and Justin-Siena are both part of the worldwide network of Lasallian schools associated with the De La Salle Christian Brothers (www.delasalle.org).
-- Thomas M. Brady

NO GOOD
Re: John Tabin's Doesn't Look Good:

I have backed Bush about the war, and cutting taxes, but have been very disappointed with his spending and border control. So when he picked Miers I have not automatically jumped on board with his "trust me." The more I read and hear about her the less I am favoring her appointment.
-- Elaine Kyle

You continue to amaze me with your ignorance. There is not one sentence in the Constitution that says all branches should be ruled by one party. The way the Constitution reads is that the President nominates a person for the court and the senate votes on the nominee.

The senators are elected by the people and for the people. They better start acting like mature adults and showings some morals and Christian values.

Nor am I interested in the President's obligation and duty to nominate a 'pure" republican. What is wrong with an Independent? What's more, what has Miers done to piss you off? Don't you owe her respect and due process? Hasn't her civil rights been violated by you and all the other commentators? Right now, I would vote for anyone who has a high school education, acted their age and didn't sleep through high school civics.
-- Joe Limbaugh

IN DEFENSE OF "DRAFT-DODGERS"
Re: Christopher Orlet's Martial Stupidity:

Christopher Orlet is dead on target (Martial Stupidity). As the proverb has it, Napoleon's horse campaigned across Europe, but after fifteen years was still only a horse. But we need not go so far back as Andrew Jackson or Ulysses Grant, or Bonaparte's horse.

In 1991, the overly revered Colin Powell argued for delaying use of force to liberate Kuwait. When he had to plan the campaign, he proposed a drive into Kuwait on a narrow front, "hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle," stopping when Kuwait's northern border had been reached. It was the "draft dodger" Dick Cheney, then SecDef, who, together with his equally civilian defense intellectual assistants, rejected Powell's plan and set in motion the plan that led to Schwarzkopf's "Hail Mary" flanking movement and the collapse of Saddam's army. At which point, General Powell again intervened to prevail upon Bush I to give us a premature ceasefire, and all that has followed for the next dozen years.

Or perhaps I can mention General "Weaselly" Clarke, Scourge of the Serbs, whose troops are still "bogged down" in that mission.

I have "been there" (RVN 1969-70 -- signed SF 180 available if John Kerry provides his), and I would far prefer to be led by a draft dodger, alleged or genuine, with military sense, than a Professional Pentagon Ponce who merely looks good in his Class A's, and knows how to get along.
-- George Mellinger
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

OUT OF GAS
Re: Doug Bandow's Pumping Gas Prices:

I am getting sick and tired of hearing how the people of this county are spoiled by learning to live on cheap prices over the last 20 years.

I worked my butt off for 30 years at cheap wages. I have been retired on that cheap money for 10 years, and if I could afford to buy a new high mileage car I would do so. But with the high cost of medicine and other inflation I am now in the position of falling off of the cliff. I served this country for 5 years in the military and I have paid on my GI Insurance for 50 years for a small sum of $10000. This is just about enough for my wife to bury me without much left over. Maybe it is enough to buy gas to drive to the cemetery. I hope to high Heaven when you retire, people will write about how you were spoiled on cheap gas or whatever.
-- Richard L. Beasley

You have to wonder whether the politicians who advocate energy price controls are either:

A. stupid
B. willfully stupid
C. missed the lecture on price as a function of supply and demand in Econ
101
D. all of the above

Answer how you will -- it's probably D. That said I must point out that Senator Cantwell was a former senior executive with RealNetworks a dotcom darling which one could argue benefited from an excessively bloated stock market in the latter half of the 1990's. I am curious whether the good Senator believes that her takings as part of RealNetworks IPO and subsequent sales in the public market, should be subject to a windfall tax? After all many small investors were "gouged" on the basis of artificially bloated share prices. Or, was it simply supply and demand?
-- Ron Pettengill
London, UK

What is so upsetting about $3.00 for a gallon of gas? Milk is $5.00 a gallon. Bottled water is $7.00 a gallon. If they raised the price of Jack Daniels -- now that would be upsetting!

Of course, if "Big Oil" is actually making obscene profits, why don't the pols suggest to their constituents to buy stock in ExxonMobile or Royal Dutch Shell? The pols might also investigate themselves for gouging the taxpayers with 45-50 cent taxes per gallon.
-- Jack Hughes
Chicago, Illinois

HISTRIONIC ATHIESM
Re: George Neumayr's Kangaroo Court:

In his editorial "Kangaroo Court" on October 20, George Neumayr states: "The ACLU has gone from defending teachers to prosecuting them. In a federal courtroom this week, the ACLU argued that science teachers in the school district of Dover, Pennyslvania, are not free under the Constitution to question evolutionary theory."

Mr. Neumayr is confused. The facts of the case are that the Dover Area School Board ordered the district's science teachers to suggest to their students that "intelligent design" is a legitimate scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. The teachers refused, on the grounds that misleading students isn't in their job description. No teachers are defendants in this case.

Unfortunately, Mr. Neumayr's confusion doesn't end there. For instance, he castigates reporter Laurie Goodstein for saying that "intelligent design" is "no more scientific than 'astrology.'" If Mr. Neumayr were to actually read the court transcripts, he would discover that Goodstein's words were taken almost verbatim from the testimony of the lead scientist of the "intelligent design" movement. Mr. Neumayr goes on to garble the difference between positive and negative arguments in science. Perhaps such mistakes are understandable: from his editorial, Mr. Neumayr's idea of good, up-to-date science seems to be Aristotle.

I couldn't figure out exactly what the point of Mr. Neumayr's editorial was. Apparently, it was to sneer at the "elite"-- meaning, I guess, biologists, philosophers of science, religious scholars, high school science teachers, reporters, or-- well-- anyone who actually knows what they are talking about.

I always thought it was the job of magazines like The American Spectator to keep their readers informed and educated. It should bother the readers of this magazine that its executive editor seemingly isn't even interested in educating himself.
-- Brian Spitzer
St. Peter, Minnesota

I guess I don't get it.

I was trained as an evolutionist at a Catholic college, graduating in the '60s. At the time a gradualist approach to speciation was accepted wisdom. Somewhat later, with the vague acceptance a scientific explanation of meteor collisions being consequential in the extinction of "dinosaurs" (admittedly not accepted by everyone) some evolutionists modified evolutionary theory to, maybe, admit that there were these "gestalt" evolutions consequent to catastrophic cosmic events [i.e., unexplainable jumps from one species to another, far different one].

Now, some scientists are trying to say that a bedrock philosophy of gradualist evolution has been consistent since, at least, the Scopes trials. Don't they read the literature? If Stephen Jay Gould was still with us, I'd tell him to call his office. Maybe some of these so-called 'scientists' on the high school textbook payroll ought to go back to school and study the History of Biology.

Intelligent Design conforms to the same scientific observations as the catastrophic gestalt theories do. The only sticking point seems to be that some pseudo-scientists hate the idea of a God and will go to histrionic lengths to refute it. That's their privilege, but it ain't science.
-- Bob R.

My, what a firestorm Neumayr has unleashed with his article! Anyone who knocks evolution or homosexuality seems to inspire the wrath of the self-righteousness on the left side of the aisle (and a few from the right). Why is it these people froth at the mouth every time their pet theories are questioned? Make a comment about homosexuality being unnatural and they rise up with the hatred mantra; speak against evolution and they cry "ignorant fool". Just who is the ignorant fool here and the hatemonger? The answer is quite obvious. All you have to do is read the responses to anyone who questions either issue. Froth on thou fools and ingrates, your wailing and gnashing of teeth only expose you for the kind of people you are. One only has to look around at society today to see what kind of legacy your beliefs have left us. Keep on plugging away Mr. Neumayr, you are right.
-- Pete Chagnon

"...The ACLU argued that science teachers in the school district of Dover, Pennsylvania, are not free under the Constitution to question evolutionary theory."

While you and I differ completely about the validity of evolutionary theory, I would like to point out that your statement omits to mention that the science teachers in the schools argued against the actions of the school board. They then refused to read the statement about evolution to the science classes and school administrators had to do it. Thus, the coercion of the school science teachers came from the school board, not the ACLU. The science teachers were not clamoring for the ability to teach about "Intelligent Design."

As someone who has read all of Dr. Behe's books and knows something about biochemistry, I would like to let you know that his assertions about the blood clotting system, the flagellar system, the immune system, and the development of the eye have all been convincingly refuted. While he still argues these points, he really can't respond with any scientific analysis other than to say: "I can't imagine how this came about, so it is irreducibly complex." I don't expect to convince you of this, since it is clear that you have a strong contrary opinion. I just regret that the present battle in the culture wars is being fought about science.
-- Nebraska Reader

I have never seen an interesting debate on price gouging without an exact definition of what is too much profit. Draw that line anywhere and you get into interesting territory. Why is it that people think there should be an upper limit on profit and no upper limit on taxes? What do we do about the businesses that sell fuel at little or no profit to get people to spend money on other items in a nearby store? There are some folks who think that ought to be illegal too.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

PITHINESS AND POTTER
Re: David Haddon's Child-on-Child Crime and the "Defending Hogwarts" letters Flat Truths, the "Proverbial Potter" letters in Those Trojan Horses, and the "Dirty Harry" letters in The Devil's Details, and the "Potter's Christian Joy" letters in Wie Was Robbed:

Let me get this straight. Expressing concern over the Harry Potter books makes one a kill-joy, erstwhile "good" Christian, Milton-less, Tolkien-phobic ignoramus who doesn't really understand Christianity. All this in response to a three sentence reply where I expressed sympathy for the original author based on the incivility and personal attacks of many of his critics. I've gotten my daily dose of irony.

The crux of the matter is that a segment of Christians desperately wants to Christian Harry Potter, another wants nothing to do with him and a third is unconvinced but skeptical. Count me in the latter group.
-- Mike Lopke
Boise Idaho

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article