Emissions tests show misplaced priortiesMaryland's new vehicle...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Emissions tests show misplaced priorties

Maryland's new vehicle emissions testing program is a prime example of misplaced government priorities that will cost already overtaxed citizens not only money but time.

The current testing procedure, which costs $8.50 annually, was deemed inadequate and scrapped for a more comprehensive -- and costly -- plan that will take 15 minutes to administer and carry a potentially more severe penalty for a failing result.

Currently, we are asked to wait in line 15 to 20 minutes to receive a test that takes approximately one minute to administer.

The new plan requires us to make an appointment for a 15 minute emissions diagnostic (if one can imagine a government affiliate sticking to a rigid appointment schedule.)

The results will show how much smog-causing, ozone-depleting hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds our vehicles emit.

If the vehicle passes, we can proceed on our way $47 poorer. Exceeding the emission limits can require repairs of up to $450.

All this to make sure that passenger vehicles, light trucks and RVs do not cause atmospheric and ozone problems.

What the state missed was a study by the American Automobile Association released in October, which studied the overall emissions that led to ozone problems in 10 major metropolitan areas.

In Baltimore, the AAA study showed that 80 percent to 90 percent of the volatile organic compound and nitrous oxide emissions came from smokestacks, big trucks, refineries and buses, not passenger cars and pickup trucks.

Thus even with the complete eradication of passenger cars and light trucks, we have only eliminated 10 percent to 20 percent of the problem. (The actual existence of an "ozone problem" is another debate entirely.)

Shouldn't this AAA study, which includes data compiled over the past 24 years, warrant further discussion among state officials before they mandate what could very well be unnecessary expense and aggravation for Maryland citizens?

The previous emissions testing methods worked just fine. With the advent of cleaner-burning, more expensive gas in January 1995, why should we have to pay more to find we are emitting less?

Edward Brennan

Towson

Preventable tragedy

Regarding Wiley Hall's recent column, "Texas' passion to punish tramples on justice" (Dec. 1), about the woman in Texas whose ex-husband drove drunk and killed himself and their two daughters:

Mr. Hall believes this "tragedy speaks for itself" and that the public would have gotten the message not to drink and drive even if the mother had not been charged with two counts of injury to a child and two counts of endangering a child for allowing her daughters to get into a car driven by someone who was intoxicated.

I disagree. If such tragedies indeed speak for themselves, why haven't drivers stopped driving drunk?

We read about tragic deaths like these all the time -- innocent people are being killed by drunk drivers. Do these deaths stop the crimes? No, because the people who commit them are not held responsible for their actions.

Society calls these deaths "accidents," which implies no guilt. If people can continue to drink and drive without punishment, why should they stop?

Mr. Hall also says that education is the best motivator for changing attitudes and behavior and that we should be compassionate, not angry.

If education worked best, however, there would be no more deaths from drunk driving because groups like MADD and SADD have done an excellent job of educating the public about the dangers of drinking and driving.

I wonder how compassionate Mr. Hall would be if one of his relatives were killed by a drunk driver. When my sister was killed 10 years ago, I felt anger, sorrow, pain and many other emotions. But compassion for the drunk driver who caused her death was not one of them.

Donna Becker

Annapolis

The writer is state chairperson of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Misconception

I am responding to the Nov. 29 letter by Robert Jenusaitis. He stated that the only way to stop the drug-related violence was to set up drug clinics where "addicts can go to get their drugs at nominal cost and be able to administer them in a safe, clean environment."

Mr. Jenusaitis' proposal is not going to solve anything. Instead, it will just intensify the problem.

A major misconception that he promotes is that the administration of drug can ever be safe. Drugs are deadly no matter where they are taken. Nothing will ever change that fact, no matter how hard a person may try to control the drug problems.

The reason why this plan will worsen conditions that are already degenerating is that all the government would be doing is condoning the use of drugs.

The belief that clinics will stop drug dealers is totally ill-conceived. An addict will not want to walk into a drug clinic with his neighbors watching. Many people are willing to pay the exorbitant prices of dealers for the privilege of anonymity.

Ultimately, it will be the taxpayers who will have to support the administration of drugs with their tax dollars. The only solution is to remain firm to our ethical obligations and pull together as a community.

We cannot allow the dealers and addicts to dictate their demands. Education and harsher sentences are the key.

Seo Hee Ko

Ellicott City

Reluctant donor

I recently renewed my Maryland driver's license and, with some trepidation, signed up to be an organ donor.

Yet I have long harbored a latent fear of being seriously injured and having the medical attendees say, "He's over 60 -- let's just scavenge for parts."

I don't think this fear is totally irrational in a society that is enthralled with recycling, the O. J. Simpson trial, litigation over coffee that is too hot and the violence of Power Rangers.

My fear certainly was not allayed by the comment attributed to Nelson Sabatini, Maryland's secretary of health and mental hygiene, in Roger Simon's recent commentary ("Md. motorcycle helmet law causes a dent in statistics," Dec. 4).

"Well, states everywhere have discovered one downside to helmet laws -- fewer organ donations," Mr. Sabatini said.

Had I been aware of this comment prior to signing up, I would have ordered a posthumous inventory of my parts instead to make sure they are all there.

J. Bard Anderson

Long Green

Light Rail parking? Bah, humbug!

Convenience, security and peace of mind are on the wish list of holiday shoppers who ride the northern end of the Light Rail.

But parking at the Mt. Washington, Falls Road and Lutherville stops is filled to capacity.

While the ink was still wet on the designer's table, you'd have thought that some consideration would have been given to adequate parking to enable the rider ship somewhere to leave their cars.

Having my car towed from the Caldor's lot is not my idea of "good will toward men" during the Christmas season.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus -- but don't ask for Light Rail parking.

Geraldine C. Shanahan

Perry Hall

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