- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

Grease monkeys vs. auto giants

The Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE), which represents companies in the automotive aftermarket such as NAPA, Midas, Carquest, AutoZone, Advance Auto and Jiffy Lube, commends Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, for his introduction of bill S. 2617, the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act ("Small repair shops fight automakers," Page 1, Monday). CARE supports an identical bill, H.R. 2735, also titled the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, introduced by Reps. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, and Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat, last August. These pro-consumer, pro-competition bills are an acknowledgment that average motorists may have no alternative for reprieve from high-priced monopoly repairs and parts without passage of this legislation.

Safety is indeed an issue. But one doesn't have to be traveling to incur vehicle problems without a convenient car dealership nearby. Texas has one of the largest and strongest automotive dealership associations in the country, yet Mr. Barton doesn't have a dealership in his hometown. Low-income motorists may have to choose between paying everyday living expenses and having their vehicles repaired at the more expensive dealership, and they may choose to drive vehicles in need of repairs. This jeopardizes their safety and that of others.

H.R. 2735 and S.2617 do not seek proprietary information, they do not restrict motorists from choosing car dealerships, and they do not drive motorists into independent shops. They simply allow motorists and not the car manufacturers to own the repair and parts information to their own property, in this instance, their vehicles. The bills allow motorists to work on their own vehicles.

What the car manufacturers are really concerned about is losing a carved-out segment of the repair and parts market, which allows them to charge monopoly prices.

Aftermarket technicians undergo rigorous hours of training. As for any dealership or manufacturer's spokesperson who tries to give the impression that the vehicles may not be repaired up to the manufacturer's standards, allow me a moment to remind them of the recent national recalls on various vehicles and parts because of ill-fitting parts and poor assembly, among other reasons.

Small businesses, franchisees and others depend on motorists choosing their shops and stores. But even with the highest quality and best parts, these facilities could lose enough business to cut back on jobs. Since September 11, we have witnessed outsiders trying to destroy America's economy; let's not destroy it ourselves by restricting consumer choice.



Coalition for Auto Repair Equality

Alexandria, Va.

Life in the fast lane

I'm the traffic reporter for WBIG-FM (100.3), and I wholeheartedly agree with Eric Peters' July 5 Op-Ed column, "How fast is too fast?" which argues that the 55 mph speed limit is impractical and exists more to raise revenue than to protect drivers.

Mr. Peters backs with facts what almost everyone who drives already knows it's not speed but the difference in speed among cars that causes accidents. If our laws were truly concerned with safety, police would concentrate on stopping reckless drivers, not the guy who's driving at a perfectly reasonable 70 mph in the left lane.

Particularly in light of the new terrorist threat, does it really make sense to continue tying up police resources by handing out tickets for driving over 55? It's time to take the advice of the engineers who built our interstates in the 1950s and raise the speed limit to 75, thereby giving police a tougher job than playing tax collector.


Falls Church, Va.

Red light, green light

Whoever wrote "Candid red-light camera facts" must be too young to remember when traffic lights in opposing directions turned red and green simultaneously (Editorial, Wednesday). Over the past generation, the duration of both yellow lights and the ensuing four-way red lights has increased constantly. As a driver, I constantly observe other drivers accelerating rather than braking when they see a light turn yellow. As a bicycle commuter, I am especially careful after left-turn signals turn red because several cars, not just one, continue to turn. The drivers are accelerating from a dead stop.

A "small increase in the time a yellow light remains yellow" will exacerbate, not reduce, the problem of people running red lights. Drivers even farther from the intersection then will assume that they can pass safely through the intersection.

I agree that video surveillance that focuses on individuals is a threat to our free society. However, identifying vehicles that are breaking the law is a different matter. Their owners can pass on the charge to the person they allowed to use their vehicle.


Office of Emerging Markets

U.S. Agency for International Development


Wednesday's editorial "Candid red-light camera facts," regarding red-light cameras, suggests the following: "Where red-light running is a problem, a small increase in the time a yellow light remains yellow before it turns red will markedly reduce dangerous road conditions and thereby obviate the need for cameras entirely."

This may be true, but I believe I have an even more effective solution.

Typically, as soon as the yellow light turns red, the cross direction turns green. I suggest that when the yellow light turns red, the cross-traffic light should stay red for a few more seconds before turning green.

Hopefully, this will delay the cross traffic just long enough for it to avoid the idiot red-light runners.


Oakwood, Ga.

The cart that pulled the horse

In Wednesday's Op-Ed column "Misusing numbers and quotes," Bruce Bartlett attacks Kevin Phillips' new book, "Wealth and Democracy," for being "long on overheated rhetoric and meaningless facts, and short on analysis and understanding of complex social, historical and economic trends." Yet Mr. Bartlett is guilty of the same.

Mr. Bartlett opens his column by asserting that Mr. Phillips falsely attributed a quote to Abraham Lincoln. Yet he does not give a source for that assertion. Then he continues to criticize some of Mr. Phillips' other quotations without mention of their authenticity; he merely seems to disagree with the content.

Because Mr. Bartlett criticizes Mr. Phillips for not being a "professional historian," I had to laugh out loud at his blatantly false reference to "the critical role of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in triggering the stock market crash [of 1929] and ensuing economic downturn."

Sourcing all of Lincoln's quotes can prove difficult, so I don't know whether Mr. Phillips was right or wrong in this regard. After all, I only have Mr. Bartlett's word. Yet learning that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was passed eight months after the crash of 1929 is as easy as typing Smoot-Hawley on any Internet search engine.

Perhaps Mr. Bartlett could stand to be a little longer on fact, analysis and understanding himself. He was deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department from September 1988 to January 1993. I now realize why George Bush Sr. might not have known about the recession that cost him his job: Look who was giving him economic advice.


Norman, Okla.

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