Florida speed limits
Higher speeds mean more deaths
Using extreme caution, you merge onto a Florida interstate highway, where the speed limit is 70 mph. You opt for the far right lane, set your cruise control at that "maximum speed," but aren't a bit surprised to see other vehicles blow by you like a scene from Fast & Furious. The Florida Legislature is working to address this dangerous problem of flagrant speeding by … raising speed limits.
No one will say exactly why. About the only reason we've heard is that some other states did it and drivers will get places in less time. How much less time? Assuming a 20-mile commute traveling at the speed limit, going 75 instead of 70 will get you to your destination 1 minute and 8 seconds sooner. Hardly a reasonable tradeoff for what will surely be — based on crash data from other states — an increase in speed-related deaths and injuries.
In 2012 in Florida, the latest year for which complete statistics are available, 2,430 people died with the 70 mph limit in place. Is that so acceptable that we have room for more fatalities? That's a gruesome average of 46 funerals a week, every week of the year just from traffic deaths in our state. Let's ask the thousands of grieving family members if raising the speed limit is what we need to do.
But the legislation speeding through committees doesn't stop there. It also increases maximum limits on noninterstate highways in our rural areas where traffic-related deaths, injuries and crashes represent a significant percentage of the statewide total.
Even the Federal Highway Administration noted that "fatal injuries" increased when speed limits went up from 60 to 65 and from 70 to 75.
When these bills get to the House and Senate floors, our state representatives and senators should not take lightly the consequences of their votes. And should they decide that faster is better, the adverse traffic safety impact notwithstanding, Gov. Rick Scott should use his veto pen to stop this bad idea in its tracks.
Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president, AAA (Auto Club Group), Largo
Bill shielding HCA, capping fees okayed March 26
Severe emotional trauma
I am a Canadian snowbird down here for the winter. I have been a registered nurse for 50 years, with 17 years spent working in emergency rooms in the United Kingdom and Canada.
A recent car accident showed me the poor quality of your hospital trauma rooms and the greed of your for-profit hospitals. I spent five hours in a hospital mainly waiting for results for blood work, ECG and a CAT scan with dye. My name was misspelled at the outset and not corrected, and a name band wasn't put on for two hours. I never saw a doctor, and the physician's assistant only made a brief examination before ordering the tests.
My blood pressure and pulse were taken twice, on arrival and departure, during the five hours. Yet they were concerned that the car airbag may have torn a blood vessel or done further damage. I was released with some aftercare papers and left to find my own way out of the trauma unit. No one spoke to my husband.
For this, my travel insurance has been billed $44,900 for the trauma unit and two checkups by another physician's assistant in a doctor's office. The emotional trauma of the money grab is more upsetting than the car accident. I most certainly will let my friends in Canada and the United Kingdom know about Florida's trauma response fee. That may change their minds about visiting Florida.
Dyanna Gassien, Hudson
Just making ends meet
Last week I did my taxes and had the shock of my life. My husband and I owe $1,200. That is in addition to the $5,500 we already paid through withholding. A $1,200 check is a big deal to us. I am an elementary school teacher and my husband is an automotive mechanic. We barely made $80,000 last year.
The amount of federal tax was bad enough, but then I considered all the other taxes we pay: Social Security and Medicare taxes ($6,000), the mandatory 3 percent Florida retirement contribution for public employees (I consider it a tax — $1,350), and property taxes ($1,600). Then there are other taxes and fees — on purchases, electricity, gasoline, phone, water, and on and on. Then I considered other outrageous amounts we pay out: health insurance ($5,000), car insurance ($2,500) and home insurance ($2,000). Together, taxes, insurance and mandatory fees cost us about one-third of our gross income.
We work hard and are getting older. It would be nice to retire at some point. Will Social Security be there for us? My retirement as a teacher will not be enough (a bit less than 50 percent of my average salary of the five highest years). We try to save for retirement, but money is tight. Besides, we lost a lot during the market crash (no bailout for us). Saving more right now is just not possible. We live paycheck to paycheck.
We do have our health (just some minor issues), a home, and we eat every day. For that I am thankful. I would, however, like more than to survive each day. I earned a bachelor's degree and my husband learned a trade through technical school (he makes more than I do). I work every summer and sometimes tutor after school. We go to work each day, do a good job, care for our families, care for our community, and live respectable lives.
Those choices used to equal a middle class American dream. Not anymore. What happened?
Elaine Goller, Seminole
Sign-up concerns linger | March 27
Care act's shifting goalposts
At some point the president will have to stop moving the target and divulge the "real" numbers pertaining to Obamacare: not only the raw numbers, but the breakdowns on demographics and those who had insurance previously that will finally allow a real evaluation of this program. He is running out of wiggle room.
Edward Germond, Apollo Beach