Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

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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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