Sauerbrey's SideI resent Michael Olesker's (column, Jan....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sauerbrey's Side

I resent Michael Olesker's (column, Jan. 10) portrayal of Ellen Sauerbrey as a sour grapes loser.

Mrs. Sauerbrey is to be commended for persistence and willingness to risk her popularity to fight for what she believes is right.

She is to be praised for her sense of obligation and commitment to the Maryland voters who did support her throughout her campaign and at the polls.

In recent days, it appears that the alleged voter fraud was perhaps not as extensive as was originally believed.

How would this ever have been determined had Mrs. Sauerbrey not investigated the election results to the degree which she has? . . .

This country is full of politicians who make decisions based on what will best serve them and their chances for re-election.

It's time that more of our elected officials followed Mrs. Sauerbrey's lead and exercised some willingness to forego personal agendas in the name of what is fair and what is just.

Nelly Greene

Brooklandville

Postal Disservice

Recently, in my numerous unsuccessful quests to buy stamps, I've parked illegally, survived the withering glance of a postal clerk when I dared to enter the post office at one minute to five and, while waiting in a line of 27 people, publicly begged an elderly woman who'd just bought a sheet of 3 cent stamps to sell me one -- so I could at least mail my mortgage payment.

I've driven the 4.6 mile journey (7 minutes with stoplights) six different times -- only to be turned back by intimidating lines. You might suggest that I could have planned for this occurrence in advance. Perhaps.

But one might also suggest that the post office could also have planned ahead -- installing the 3-cent stamps and the new unnumbered G series in its postal machines might have been a start.

Perhaps the Postal Service could have expanded its opening hours for the first few weeks or could have embarked on a public relations campaign in December to remind people of the increase in rates and the need to plan ahead.

Can you imagine if you had to wait in line for 30 minutes to rent a video or return to the grocery store again and again because there was no place to park?

Buying postage that week was a process so frustrating and degrading that it reminded me of my experiences in dealing with a disreputable car dealer.

Fortunately, such an arrogant and insensitive attitude toward customers is basically limited to our government organizations, who face no competition for their services.

Does the Postal Service really think we will have an hour to waste waiting in line? Quite frankly, a rate hike, on top of already deplorable mail service, is just one more example of the appalling incompetence of the U.S. Postal Service. This newest farce was an abomination. If anybody wants to add privatization of the post office to the next election ballot, I'll be the first to sign up.

Carolyn Spencer Brown

Baltimore

Auto Industry Claims

I was somewhat surprised at The Sun's Dec. 23 reaction to some of the latest steps taken to clean up Maryland's polluted air. Experience indicates that motorists will fare just fine and that we will all get healthier air to breathe.

The editorial lamented that new, cleaner gasoline would raise prices by nearly a dime per gallon. In fact, shortly afterward The Sun reported that the increase would be much less, perhaps a nickel.

The editorial also said that cars with cleaner emissions required by the Environmental Protection Agency would be outrageously expensive.

You swallowed auto industry claims hook, line and sinker. Experience in other states has inevitably proven inflated cost predictions like these to be wrong.

As recently as 18 months ago, opponents of California's tougher emissions standards estimated that the program's 1995 model year cars would be $250 to $1,000 more expensive than their more polluting counterparts sold in other states.

A recent survey in Massachusetts, however, which now requires the cleaner cars, found that every dealership contacted was selling California-certified 1995 cars at an additional cost of between zero and $150.

Maryland had more unhealthful smog days this past summer than any other Northeastern state, including New York. If we really want to clean up the smog which rolls up from Washington through Maryland and to the rest of the Northeast, we must require automakers to make cars which throw far fewer pollutants into our air.

Once we do that, they will rise to the occasion and make affordable, cleaner cars, just like they have been doing since the original Clean Air Act was passed over their objections 25 years ago.

Daniel Pontious

Baltimore

The writer is executive director, Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Statistics Show Speed Kills

On behalf of the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives, I would like to convey my disappointment with Gov.-elect Parris Glendening's decision to seek legislation to raise the speed limit on Maryland's rural interstates to 65 mph.

In recent newspaper articles across the state, Mr. Glendening was cited as saying that individuals driving at 55 mph were more of a road hazard than those driving faster, and that a 65 mph speed limit would increase highway safety.

To my knowledge, there is not evidence to support this statement. However, evidence to the contrary is readily available.

Higher speeds clearly mean more deaths. Because speeding reduces the time drivers have to avoid crashes, it increases not only the likelihood of crashing, but also the severity.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in the 40 states where speed limits were raised to 65 mph in 1987 and 1988, deaths on rural interstates were 24 percent higher in 1993, compared with the average number of deaths on the same roads from 1982 to 1986.

At the same time, deaths on urban interstates in the same states (where the speed limit remained at 55) were 5 percent lower.

According to IIHS, 1994 is the seventh year in a row of increased motor vehicle deaths on rural interstates with 65 mph speed limits. It is estimated that 400 lives are lost annually as a result of 65 mph speed limits on rural interstates.

IIHS states that "the risk of death and severe injury is a direct exponential function of speed."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the percentage of occupants with serious injuries consistently and dramatically increases with increasing impact speed.

For example, the rate of serious injury for people involved in crashes at impact speeds of 21 to 30 mph is 11.1 -- a rate that increases to 27.9 at impact speeds of 31 to 40 mph and to 54.3 at speeds of 50 mph or more.

Raising Maryland's speed limit to 65 mph on rural interstates will result in an increase in the percentage of motorists traveling at dangerous speeds in excess of 70 mph.

In nearby Virginia, before 1988, speed limits were 55 mph for both cars and trucks on all rural interstates. Only 6 to 8 percent of cars exceeded 70 mph.

When Virginia raised speed limits on rural interstates to 65 mph for cars, the result was an immediate jump in travel speeds among cars. Within a month, 17 percent of the cars surveyed in Virginia was going faster than 70 mph.

According to IIHS, the proportion of cars exceeding 70 has continued to escalate in Virginia, and when last surveyed a whopping 39 percent of cars were traveling faster than 70 mph.

The National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives strongly encourages Mr. Glendening to prevent needless injuries and deaths by holding the maximum speed limit to 55 mph.

By doing so, he will not only help to save precious lives but will also save Maryland taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs, lost productivity, property damage and other direct expenditures.

John Conger

Washington, D.C.

The writer is director of Colorado's Office of Transportation Safety and chairman of the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

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