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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Who Wrote This?

For the love of God. Does anyone who puts a newspaper together ever read it?

Here's a headline in today's Bristol Herald-Courier/TriCities.com (online version):
Tennessee Parol (sic) Board to Holds (sic) Hearings for 400 Prison Inmates (link)

We have been complaining for a number of years now about our public schools and the quality of education our children are receiving.

This headline is a clear indicator that our complaints were for naught. We've lost. Our children have grown up and become newspaper editors. And are stupid.

I Can Vouch For That

News from the Roanoke Times:
No more denying a dangerous distraction

The verdict is in: Driving and cellphone use are incompatible.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found, unsurprisingly, that drivers who use cellphones are four times as likely to wind up in serious crashes as those who confine their conversations to their passengers.

The risk proves true even for drivers using hands-free models. (link)

I spend a lot of time on my cellphone. Truth be known, I conduct a good bit of business from my car. Like it or not, it's pretty much how things get done these days. There is no such thing as down-time anymore what with email, text messaging, voicemail, and telephone capability on the dashboard in front of you.

That having been said, I came to the realization that paying too much attention to my cellphone while driving down the street can lead to serious problems. Especially if I'm fumbling with a map with one hand, taking notes with another, holding the steering wheel with another, and holding my cellphone with my fourth ... hand that is.

So my rule is, if the phone rings, I find a place to pull over and answer it. If I need to make a call, I'll generally wait until (I have a strong signal and) I can turn into a parking lot. Then I'll conduct business.

There are too many bad things that can happen when one is not careful.

As four teenagers learned in the next posting.

An Accident Waiting To Happen

Would you give your newly licensed 16 year-old a lightning-fast sports car to tool around in with his buds? Someone was foolish enough to. And the parents of four children are grieving this morning because of it.

From the Roanoke Times:

Bedford Co. crash kills 4

An automobile accident fatally injured four people and sent a fifth to the hospital Saturday afternoon in Bedford County, state police said.

The accident occurred about 5:10 p.m. on Virginia 665 (Diamond Hill Road) near the intersection of Virginia 616 in Moneta, officials said. A 16-year-old male, whose name has not been released, and three passengers were traveling east on Diamond Hill Road in a red Mitsubishi 3000 GT. The driver lost control of the vehicle and ran off the right side of the road, state police spokesman Bob Carpentieri said. The driver overcorrected the vehicle, crossed the double yellow line and struck a small utility truck with a dump truck bed carrying logs, he said.

State police said the four victims in the Mitsubishi died at the scene. (

This tragic story reminds me of an incident that I got involved in several years ago. I was working in my office at home one winter morning when a neighbor called to say that the driver of a car had lost control and had proceeded to wipe out about a hundred feet of my four-board oak fence along the road frontage, and was sitting in the middle of my horse pasture.

I threw on my raincoat and trudged down to the scene, only to find what had been, a few minutes before, a beautiful black late-model Ford Mustang now buried in mud and debris. The car was badly battered by the collision with my fence, with even a four-by-four wooden post protruding from the windshield. To make it look even worse, the car was covered in muck.

The female driver, who stood all of five feet tall, was standing in the middle of the road, in a daze and soaking wet from the rain that was falling. I walked over to her to make sure she was all right. She looked up at me, collapsed into my chest, and sobbed uncontrollably for five minutes.

When she was finally able to speak to me, she told me what had happened. She was driving her car, a high-performance 5.0 liter Mustang, down the road when she came up behind a mail delivery jeep at the top of the hill in front of my house. Rather than come to a stop or check for oncoming traffic, she had proceeded to pull around the jeep. As soon as she did, she saw a pickup truck heading toward her.

So she punched the accelerator.

A high-performance 5.0 liter Mustang accelerator.

It was at this point that her car went airborne and into my pasture fence.

Her husband later told me that his young wife was not familiar with the car or its raw power. Its ability to sprout wings and fly, when called upon. The revelation came a little too late for the car. And my fence. And for his wife's emotional stability.

So. What's the moral of the story? A car can be a deadly weapon in the hands of an inexperienced driver. If you have a teenager who has just learned to drive, don't put him or her behind the wheel of a rocketship.

My condolences go out to the families of the four children killed in the Bedford accident. A warning goes out to parents who think they're doing their kids a favor by putting them behind the wheel of a potential death machine.