Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

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The Deadly Consequences of Distracted Driving

Rick Coates - December 17th, 2012  

It is a parent’s worst nightmare, that knock on the door, that phone call with the words: “your child has been in a serious car accident.”

That nightmare happened for my family a couple of weeks ago. As I rushed to the scene of the accident on a highway just south of Traverse City, my first sight was several flashing lights of emergency vehicles. My daughter’s car was nowhere in sight; instead, several of her personal belongings were scattered all over the highway along with hundreds of pieces of her vehicle.

As I got out of my vehicle I spotted my daughter’s car well off the highway. She was seated on the ground wrapped in a blanket just a few feet away from her vehicle. Fortunately for my family the worst case scenario had not happened. Call it a Christmas Miracle, a gift from God, fate, or just good fortune, but our daughter walked away. Sure, badly bruised, some cuts and a concussion but alive. Miraculously, everyone else survived from the other three vehicles involved.

Three vehicles were “totaled,” including our daughter’s car. A sheriff’s deputy approached me saying, “Mr. Coates, all of us here are shaking our heads in disbelief that your daughter survived.”


This particular stretch of highway doesn’t have a left turn lane. My daughter had come to a complete stop because a vehicle several cars ahead of her was turning left. The vehicle behind her didn’t stop, rear-ending her small car at a speed in excess of 60 miles an hour, pushing her into an oncoming passenger van traveling 55 miles an hour.

The driver who initially hit my daughter approached me; he had already apologized to her.

He reached out his hand and apologized, saying, “It was all my fault, I am so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention, I was distracted.” I shook his hand emotionally, anger was not what I was feeling at the moment. I was drenched in tears of joy and relief my daughter was alive. Nothing else mattered. In the days following the accident, our focus was on her recovery, doctors visits and concerns over whether her injuries and blurred vision would be long term.

A week after the accident my editor at the Express sent me a text message asking if I would write about this experience. Prior to the accident he would have received an immediate response to his text. I was one of those people glued to my phone 24/7 and as embarrassed as I am to write this, I was breaking the law on a daily basis texting and checking email all while driving.

After the accident, I vowed to not even pick up my phone while driving, so my response came several hours later. Besides being haunted by the visual of my daughter’s totaled car the word “distracted” had been weighing on my mind.


For the past 30 years our society has become quite vigilant regarding drunk driving. Much has been done to reduce drunk driving, accidents and deaths as a result. So as I started my research, this most startling statistic jumped out. According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “Distracted driving is the number one cause of deaths among teenagers in the U.S.”

While drunk driving remains the number one cause of of all traffic deaths annually, those numbers have been on the decline in recent years.

Meanwhile, distracted driving accidents and deaths are on the rise.

According to the NHTSA, on average 15 people a day in this country lose their lives as a result of distracted driving. By the end of this year that number is expected to rise, with close to 6,000 traffic deaths in 2012 caused by distracted driving.

Close to 500,000 people are injured annually as a result of distracted driving and the NHTSA reports that on average, distracted driving accounts for 13,000 traffic accidents daily.

A few years ago in Michigan our elected officials banned “texting and driving.” In many ways it is somewhat of an unenforceable law and it also fell short as it only addressed one cause of distracted driving.

Certainly the use of mobile devices came in at the top of the list of most research studies as the leading cause of distracted driving. But a close second was personal hygiene, such as putting on make-up, nail polish, shaving, and yes, even changing clothes while driving. Also eating, looking around at the scenery, reading books, newspapers, laptops, talking to passengers, having a pet on their lap and changing the station on the radio were all leading causes of driver distraction leading to accidents.


In a research study by the NHTSA they found drivers who were making calls or texting had a reaction time equivalent to a person whose blood alcohol level was .08. Being tired was another cause of driver distraction with falling asleep or nodding off behind the wheel resulting in 40,000 accidents annually. Research from the NHTSA and several universities point to 80% of all car accidents in the states are a result of distracted driving.

So with all of the data out there, why is little being done to stop distracted driving -- the number one cause of traffic accidents? Several states have passed no-texting while driving laws. There has also been a call for a national referendum to ban texting behind the wheel. The NHTSA and others have suggested a total ban on cell phone usage while driving.

But cell phone usage only accounts for just over 20% of the distracted driving accidents. The reality is law enforcement is having a difficult time enforcing the no texting laws. Last year, Wisconsin issued less than 50 tickets for texting and driving, while Iowa issued less than 100 tickets. Michigan has done better, averaging about 500 citations annually.

We can pass laws until we are blue in the face, but the penalties for texting and driving are minor and unless a distracted driving accident ends in death, typically a driver receives only a minor citation and fine.

The bottom line is making a personal commitment. Some celebrities like Oprah among others have made a national call for people to quit texting and driving. But we have to take it a step further and eliminate all distractions. I have already started -- please join me and let’s eliminate the fact that in 2013, 6,000 people will die needlessly as a result of distracted driving.

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