- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Road safety

The fact that police officers are fighting dangerous driving and gridlock doesn’t mean they aren’t protecting us against terrorism and violence (“Misallocating police resources,” Editorials, Friday). Quite the contrary: Their work on area roads is often what enables them to spot troublemakers, deter lawlessness and catch criminals of every stripe.

Drunken drivers killed more than 17,000 Americans last year, and they are the greatest risk we face on the road at any hour. Solo drivers hogging HOV lanes account for one in every three or four cars there, and they thwart honest drivers’ good-faith efforts to combat gridlock in a region with among the most congested rush hours in the country.

You neglected to complain about two similar initiatives. The Smooth Operator campaign against aggressive driving — a practice motorists tell AAA Mid-Atlantic is the greatest threat to their own safety — resulted in 210,000 tickets or warnings this summer. Click It or Ticket is an ongoing effort to convince people that buckling up is the best way to save lives — and to save the millions of dollars spent on health care for crash victims.

We agree that traffic stops shouldn’t be a back door to imposing martial law, but that is neither the design nor the effect of these aggressive — and admirable — campaigns by area law enforcement. Law-abiding motorists appreciate police efforts to keep drunks off the roads, and checkpoints prompt them to think twice the next time they consider drinking before driving. They cheer when they learn about enforcement of aggressive driving laws and often change their habits when they are caught without a seat belt. The majority of them crawling along in their commutes or car-pooling in HOV lanes chuckle with gleeful approval when they see cheaters caught.

Car crashes claimed some 43,000 lives last year — twice as many as homicides and many times more than terrorist attacks. They deserve no lesser allocation of police resources — but that’s what they get.

AAA Mid-Atlantic salutes area police for making safety on the roads a higher priority. These campaigns work. They are welcomed by the overwhelming majority of drivers as important and necessary. They give law enforcement added opportunities to apprehend criminals, prevent other crimes and protect our communities. These campaigns deserve our full support, and the officers doing this thankless part of their jobs deserve our gratitude.

MAHLON G. ANDERSON

Director, public and government relations

AAA Mid-Atlantic

Washington

Make it official

Monday’s Page One story “Learning to teach in 200 foreign languages” is an eloquent argument, whether intended or not, for making English the official language of the United States. It also underscores the folly of so-called bilingual education in our public schools.

Certainly, the diversity of languages spoken by children entering D.C. and nearby Maryland schools presents a challenge to the teachers, but American teachers have met the challenge ever since droves of immigrants entered our country in the 19th century.

With persistence, patience and good will, these early teachers helped generations of immigrants learn our national language. My own mother taught in a one-room school near Gettysburg, Pa., in the early 1900s. Many of her first-grade pupils spoke Pennsylvania German at home. She reached out to help them, but spoke only English. She pretended not to understand their dialect. This quiet and compassionate approach, plus the informal help of the older pupils, had all of them speaking basic English in two months.

Of course, it is right and proper for immigrant families to speak their mother languages at home and to cherish their heritages, but because these pupils are present or future American citizens, they must be expected to speak and read workable English.

Further, all official information, documents and ceremonies should be in American English. It is nothing short of a travesty when ballots to elect our officials are printed in Spanish or any other foreign tongue. Also, the holding of citizenship ceremonies in Spanish does a disservice to new citizens who have sworn allegiance to the United States and the Constitution.

The failure to comprehend these simple realities threatens to turn “E pluribus unum” on its head.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Chevy Chase

Greece is game for 2004

Andrew Borowiec’s report “Greece braces for 2004 Athens Olympic Games” (World, Sunday) paints a gloomy picture of the preparations for next year’s Olympic Games in Athens and ignores what already has been achieved in making sure that the 2004 Olympics will be as safe, spectacular and unique as human effort can make them.

The concern about the security of the games is unjustified in view of the unprecedented resources and international cooperation committed to this task by the Greek government, a fact praised by the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. administration. In a post-September 11 environment, Greece has given Olympic security the highest priority, having committed more than three times the funds (close to $1 billion) and security personnel (some 58,000) used in Sydney, Australia, or Salt Lake City. An international consortium under U.S.-based Science Applications International Corp. has been awarded a $280 million contract to install the most sophisticated security and communications systems in the world, and Greece is being advised by top security experts from seven countries, including the United States and Israel.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated on Sept. 30, “We think the Greeks have the will and the resources to hold a secure and successful Olympics, and we have every confidence that they will.”

The report also makes much of some inevitable glitches in the August test events, but fails to mention that the whole purpose of the tests, one year before the games, is to identify potential problems and take corrective action.

No one cares more about the success of the Olympics than the land where the games were born in ancient times and revived in 1896. We are confident that the tens of thousands of athletes and spectators will enjoy safe and unique games when the Olympics return home next year.

ACHILLES PAPARSENOS

Press counselor

Embassy of Greece

Washington

At the voting booth in California

Your editorial on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory in the California recall (“California’s future,” Oct. 9) rightly points out that “change was in the air,” but has a significant error in describing voter turnout. Voter turnout was high relative to recent gubernatorial races in the state, but the 60 percent turnout of registered voters was less than California’s 71 percent turnout in the 2000 presidential contest.

I would offer two additional cautionary notes about the election. First, like Gray Davis in 2002, Mr. Schwarzenegger apparently captured less than half the votes in the recall. That total included a good number of votes from people who also voted no on the first part of the recall and thus apparently preferred Mr. Davis to any replacement. Second, because the Republican field of candidates winnowed so quickly and Tom McClintock suffered from “spoiler” charges, Mr. Schwarzenegger has yet to prove himself among Republican voters.

If the recall rules had allowed for instant runoff voting — such as Australia’s ranked-choice system, which generates a majority winner in a single round of voting — Mr. Schwarzenegger would have had to prove majority support among a field that included other significant Republican candidates freed from the spoiler tag. His victory then would have been more clearly a mandate from the voters.

ROB RICHIE

Executive director

Center for Voting and Democracy

Takoma Park

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