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Letters

April 8, 2005



Don't speed to conclusions on dangers of US roads

I respectfully disagree with your March 28 editorial "Slow Down; We Move Too Fast" because I believe you omitted an important qualifier when you repeated the NHTSA's line that speed kills.

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Speed does kill, when all other things are equal; but other things are not equal in the United States.

In Germany, a country with an average speed far higher than in the United States, the rate of automobile deaths per 1,000 drivers is much lower.

That may be because in Germany, professional driver's education is mandatory, the driving tests required for obtaining a license are much harder and more complex, and the road infrastructure is much better designed and maintained.

While states across the US could choose to follow Germany's example, one ought to wonder whether they decide not to because issuing citations for speeding is a net source of revenue, whereas improving driver training and road infrastructure is both expensive and politically risky.
Eric Peeters
Ft. Worth, Texas

Once again, the symptom is treated instead of the root cause. The speed at which drivers proceed is not the problem. The real problem is the incompetency of most drivers.

Testing of drivers' abilities in this country is a farce. Most drivers haven't the slightest knowledge of defensive driving, handling a skidding situation, or when to apply the brakes vigorously.

If you are lucky, the driver in the SUV coming at you knows how large his or her vehicle is and leaves you some navigation room instead of taking up the middle of the street. The person following on your bumper at 60 m.p.h. probably doesn't know that you're about to hit the brakes and probably hasn't heard about reaction times.

And the worst offender of all, the person who passes you then cuts you off because he or she can see you in the right side mirror that plainly says "objects are closer than they appear."

Need I rant on? Stupidity is the root cause; speed only makes accidents happen more quickly.
Paul Michaelis
Watchung, N.J.

Latin America's regional unity

I was surprised by the tone of the March 29 article, "Latin leaders try to diffuse tensions," which paints a distorted picture of the recent summit between the elected leaders of Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, and Spain.

The article is framed by the idea that the summit was organized to control Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and "limit his reach around the continent."

But in their public presentations, each national leader expressed virtually the opposite sentiment.

It is easy to see where your reporter may get this notion, as he relies exclusively on American analysts and government officials with similar views of Venezuela's democracy. Not a single Latin American was quoted for the story, and this oversight affects the quality of the analysis.

At the end of the summit, each participating government pledged greater unity to combat the terrorism and poverty that have impeded development in the Andean region. Additionally, the leaders committed themselves to strengthening economic integration throughout South America, something that will benefit citizens throughout the region.

It is a shame that the important message of regional unity was overshadowed by more cynical viewpoints from Washington.

I hope that future stories will include the perspectives of those involved.
Andres Mateo Jarrin
Venezuela Information Office
Washington

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