The trooper's death is tragic and should never have occurred. Nevertheless, Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Highway Patrol Association and the Florida Legislature are barking up the wrong tree.
Let me explain. I personally drive regularly at average speeds of 120 mph, sometimes higher, on dry, sunny days on public highways. In fact, I did precisely that last week. Of course I'm talking about the German highway system, which has no speed limits on about 70 percent of the system. Why then does Germany have about half the road fatality rate per 100,000 vehicles as the U.S. system, where we have speed limits? There are three compelling reasons.
First, a driver's license in Germany costs $3,000 because it requires very rigorous training in licensed driving schools; an understanding of how a vehicle works; and demanding testing. (About 80 percent of all applicants fail the first round.) It's as rigorous as getting a pilot's license in the United States. Our training and licensing system is a joke by comparison.
Building on the first point, the rules of the road are enforced rigorously. Passing is permitted only on the left; when done passing, you must move to the right. If you pass on the right, like we do every day on the Courtney Campbell Parkway, you lose your license for a year. The concrete road bed in Germany is also three times as thick as on our interstates — thus no surface irregularities.
Third, a DUI is a social anathema. If you have an accident, worse with injuries or death, and alcohol in you, the penalties are draconian, starting with the confiscation of your car; loss of license for life; jail time, etc.
Florida and the United States should design driving training that not only teaches one how to drive, but how to react to various circumstances. Along these lines, prohibit all phone calls except hands-free; implement a pass on the left and slower traffic move over policy, irrespective of the speed limits; and implement severe DUI consequences.
I believe that you will see a dramatic decline in traffic deaths, less frustration, and safer and smoother moving traffic benefiting us all. I think it's okay to raise the speed limit accordingly. How about the heads of the FHP Association make a fact-finding trip to Germany? They might learn something.
Peter Sontag, Clearwater
Scott to veto speed hike and Keep right and let them pass | May 14
The problem is tailgating
I applaud Gov. Rick Scott for his pledge to veto the proposed speed limit increase bill. We all know that most of us drive over the speed limit already, and statistics show more speed equals more accidents. I don't understand state Sen. Jeff Brandes' motive behind this bill. Whatever benefit would come from raising the speed limit (please tell us) would be countered by more injuries and deaths. Is that worth it?
As far as "slow" drivers in the fast lane, I think tailgaters are actually referring to anyone in the fast lane who is not going as fast as they want them to. I find it rare that someone is going below the speed limit in the fast lane, as so many of us complain about. But I routinely see impatient tailgaters, endangering everyone around them, following too closely even when the car in front of them is passing slower cars while driving above the speed limit. Tailgating is the issue we need to address, not more speed.
Brad Duncan, St. Petersburg
One of my duties as a school counselor at a Hillsborough County public high school is to inform seniors who haven't passed their reading FCAT of their rather dismal options. Many of these are diligent students who have retaken the FCAT four times, taken FCAT prep classes, attended Saturday and afternoon tutoring, taken SAT prep classes, and taken the SAT and ACT in hopes of earning a concordant score. These are students with dreams of pursuing higher education or entering the military.
I am absolutely for accountability, but this frenzy of standardized testing imposed upon us by a feckless Florida Legislature is choking our educational system. I spend countless hours puzzling over computer-generated spreadsheets determining which students still need to pass FCAT and end-of-course exams in order to earn a diploma. In addition, high school students take the FCAT Writes, the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, the SAT, and midterm and final exams.
And with whatever the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott come up with to meet the new and improved "Florida Standards," one thing is certain: There will be more testing.
Meanwhile, when I am not proctoring a test, I have anxious students crying in my office and desperate parents who want their teenagers to qualify for exceptional education so that a waiver can be granted if the required standardized assessments are not passed.
Langston Hughes' poem A Dream Deferred comes to mind when I tell students they will not be earning a diploma because they haven't passed a test. Perhaps it is time for all of us to ponder the consequences of measuring a student's worth by a standardized test score.
Mary Burke, Tampa
School Board member's opening prayer idea fails | May 14
Thanks for the silence
I would like to thank the Hillsborough County School Board for their recognition of diversity in the community by rejecting an opening prayer. While the recent Supreme Court decision certainly opens the way for prayer to be included, by observing a moment of silence the board respects the ability of all participants to reflect on the seriousness of their responsibilities in a manner that is appropriate.
Judy Adkins, Tampa
Hospital workers observed for MERS May 14
Alarms, but little guidance
Someone needs to tell me what the "high alert" at our nation's airports for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome really means. On television news, reporters are announcing this with as much hype as they can muster. On ABC News, this statement was made: "Let's hope this does not become an epidemic."
So what are we to do on "high alert"? As a safety professional, my question would be: What are we doing to reduce the likelihood of contracting or spreading the MERS virus? We are not at the gates of incoming international flights requiring passengers to wear masks. Why? That would make people feel uncomfortable. We have not set up hand-sanitizing stations at the same locations, requiring all passengers to clean their hands as they exit these flights. That costs money.
We talk a good game, and over the past two days I have listened to reporters talk about being vigilant, proactive, extra-cautious, aware and, of course, "on high alert" — all the terms people like to hear from the media so they can feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, words will not stop the MERS virus from spreading, only actions will. The only proactive thing I heard from a reporter was, "Cover you mouth when you cough or sneeze."
Clifford M. Lucido, Oldsmar
ACLU: Single-gender schools discriminate May 14
Picking the wrong battle
The ACLU, which continues to perform admirably in many circumstances, fails to make its point in opposing gender-specific education. Has the organization had a look at the detritus left behind from attempts to modify education to fit everyone's standards?
For years, many fine women's colleges and men's military schools produced educated and cultured graduates. In many localities today, it seems to be the tail wagging the dog. Specifically, in public schools there are pods set up for what the schools describe as gifted. About 2 percent of the world's population is gifted. That should make the ACLU raise its collective eyebrows. But this? It simply does not compute.
Harriet P. Sherwood, Clearwater
Carroll is thorn in side of Scott May 14
Firing is no mystery
I was amused by Jennifer Carroll's comments. She says she was ousted from her position and never given a reason. Could the reason have been her involvement in a charity that was under criminal investigation? The same charity that paid her $100,000, which she didn't report to the IRS or on financial reports?
Of course, after she is caught she then lists the money and changes the report. So now everything is fine, and she is going to publish a tell-all book. Will she explain how she forgot to list $100,000 on her income tax return?
Ron McDermott, Dade City