Air bag hysteria aside, these tools save...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Air bag hysteria aside, these tools save lives

Regarding the Dec. 4 letter, "Forget about air bags, make better bumpers," the writer has gotten his facts mixed up.

He says stronger bumpers would be preferable. Is he ignorant of the fact that quality and safety conscious auto manufacturers, such as Mercedes and Volvo, emphasize the crumple zone, which allows the front part of the car, rather than passengers, to take the abuse? Or that the objective of seat belts and airbags is to keep passengers from continuing to move (presumably into the instrument panel and the windshield) when the car has come to an abrupt stop?

The current near-hysteria over the limited number of people, especially children, who have been killed as the result of air bags has clouded the fact that innumerable lives have been saved by proper use of these devices. In many instances, such as the accident on Hillen Road a few months ago, it has been demonstrated that had both adults and children been properly belted in there would not have been a loss of life. . . .

Robert E. Greenfield

Baltimore

Lately many people have questioned the use of air bags in automobiles. But wasn't it only a few years ago that many people wanted air bags in every automobile? People used to sue automobile companies if a family member died in an accident if the car wasn't equipped with an air bag. Now people sue if a family member is killed in a car accident by the air bag. Do we want to get rid of air bags or not?

Since August air bags have reduced fatal injuries in frontal crashes by about 30 percent. According to the Traffic Safety Administration, air bags have saved about 1,500 lives between 1987 and 1995. Thirty-nine people were killed by air bags in that same time period, but if no air bags were present those people might still have died.

Now automobile companies are working to make an on/off switch for air bags. This will let everyone seal his or her own fate. If motorists think air bags are life-savers, they can turn the air bags on. If motorists think air bags kill, then they can turn them off.

Look at the statistics. More lives have been saved by air bags. Imagine you are driving down a road in the middle of the night. Another person is driving on the road, intoxicated. His car crosses the double yellow lines and bears down on your car. Is your air bag on? I know mine is.

Christopher Barnaba

Towson

Downtown attracting major companies

Kudos to Sylvan Learning Systems. Like many others in the downtown business community, we salute this fast-growing company's move to Inner Harbor East.

In The Sun's coverage of this exciting relocation, however, I believe a good opportunity has been missed. In both a Nov. 26 article ("One company's bold move") and a Dec. 2 editorial ("A company on the move"), The Sun suggested that it has been more than 20 years since a "major company" has moved its headquarters into Baltimore City. That isn't true.

On Sept. 21 ("Partnership points to a positive trend"), The Sun covered the official welcoming of Treasure Chest Advertising Inc., a company with nearly $1 billion in sales, which moved its corporate headquarters from California to downtown Baltimore.

Likewise, within the past year, International Youth Foundation, among the largest non-profit organizations devoted to improving conditions and prospects for children and youth worldwide, relocated its headquarters from Michigan to downtown Baltimore.

While this organization may not quite fit The Sun's definition of a "major company," IYF, combined with the Annie E. Casey Foundation (yet another recent headquarters relocation), have raised Baltimore's international and non-profit prominence.

In saluting Sylvan, our newest corporate headquarters, let's not forget the other major companies, just a few of which are mentioned above, that have also committed to strengthening downtown Baltimore.

Laurie B. Schwartz

Baltimore

The writer is president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

Award-winning homes not worth $283,000

It is ironic that the new Lafayette Courts development was the recipient of an American Institute of Architects award, as reported by Ed Gunts on Dec. 5. The recently demolished 1955 high-rises were thought to be visionary and on the cutting edge of design when they were built.

The $106 million project cost divided by 374 units equates to over $283,000 per house. Why couldn't that money be spent on rehabbing some of the vacant townhouses that devalue Baltimore's neighborhoods? Perhaps a way to help public housing tenants move into rehabbed homes in an ownership capacity would have been much more empowering to the residents and the community.

The AIA design jurors thought that the new Lafayette Courts will be "a low-income community that is visually, socially and economically integrated" with the city. How does a $283,000 low-income house fit into Baltimore's fabric?

If the housing authority had chosen the scattered-site rehab approach instead, millions of taxpayers dollars would have been saved. The old Lafayette Courts site could have been used for the expanding University of Maryland at Baltimore biotech industry, creating badly needed jobs.

All of this causes me to wonder if our officials have learned anything from the mistakes of 1955.

Brian W. Kelly

Baltimore

Welfare money goes into drugs

As a resident of a known drug area I applaud the efforts of Maryland lawmakers to enact a law to test welfare applicants for drug use. I feel that it is about time that this was done. I have seen in my own neighborhood how money that is supposedly meant for taking care of children is instead spent to support drug habits.

Everybody living in the 'hood today knows that the biggest day for drug dealers is the first of the month, the day that welfare checks come out. On the first of the month in certain neighborhoods the streets become teeming with drug addicts and dealers. There is so much traffic you would think it was a holiday.

If this bill passes, hopefully the first of the month will be just another day.

Gail J. Willis

Baltimore

Some colleges are challenging

As an adjunct instructor in English and humanities at York College of Pennsylvania, I feel I must respond to the comments of Amy Wu (Nov. 26, "Consuming college"). She bemoans that, "College students are getting lazier and will soon be . . . brain dead." While this may be the case at the college she attended, it demonstrably is not at York College.

YC is one of those institutions that she ironically dismisses as being "best values" in national ratings. There is a good reason for YC's high ratings. It places highest importance on teaching. While our faculty scholars regularly publish valuable articles in prestigious journals, that is not the basis of their evaluations and their income. Rather it is their ability to engage students in scholarship, to challenge them to think and to perform.

And, oddly enough, instead of "sleeping through lectures and snoring through seminars," our students do think and do perform. And, I can say that after more than 25 years of association with YC, today's students do it better than ever before.

I'm amazed at how much brighter and how much more thoughtful they are, semester after semester. In my literature classes, attended by only a few English majors and many business students, I'm constantly trying to create ever more difficult assignments. And they constantly rise to the higher level of abstract thinking and problem-solving required. It is too bad that Ms. Wu didn't attend such a college.

Jerry Dyer

York, Pa.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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