We are saturated with statistics in this modern world of ours, but here's one that still pops the eye. Every day in Washington, D.C., there are about 20 hit-and-run car accidents.
The police say that very few cause fatalities, very few involve drunk drivers and very few are caused by fleeing criminals. But that means that most hit-and-runs are caused by "normal" drivers. That's hardly reassuring.
Neither is this: The number of hit-and-runs in Washington each year is growing faster than any other traffic violation category.
In 1982, there were 7,197 such incidents here. In 1983, there were 7,284. In 1984, there were 7,644. The 1985 returns are still coming in from outlying precincts, but nobody in the police traffic analysis branch doubts that 1985 will set a record -- the wrong kind of record.
Officer Fred Thompson of the police department's traffic analysis/statistics branch says there's only one bright side to the surging hit-and-run figures. Every hit-and-run report is taken by the police, but not every fender bender report is taken. Therefore, hit-and-runs may appear to be a larger percentage of D.C. accidents than they actually are.
Still, in terms of raw numbers of hit-and-runs, the surge is real, indeed. Officer Thompson says the police hope to "improve and eliminate" the situation, but they don't have a clear bead on how.
The best medicine against hit-and-runners remains a good pair of eyes. If you're hit, and the hitter runs, get the license number. He might be able to run from the scene of the accident, but he can't run from a computer that knows who registered which car.
Jol Silversmith of Rockville was honored when his father gave him a special present: an MIT '64 shirt that the father wore while he attended that well-known Cambridge, Mass., college.
"It had great sentimental value," says Jol, who is 12 and who attends Julius West Middle School. "I wanted to keep it forever."
But forever turned out to be just a couple of days. Jol took the MIT shirt to school with him and says he locked it in his locker. But all too soon, the shirt went bye-bye -- stolen from the locker along with a set of Jol's gym clothes.
If the locker had been jimmied, Jol says he would never have pursued the matter. But the locker had been opened by someone who knew the combination. Suspecting an inside job, Jol demanded a refund from school officials.
Not only did they refuse, but they made a bad situation worse. The principal essentially accused Jol of making the theft possible.
"Sometimes a student has shared a locker with a friend, and adolescence being what it is, sometimes anger arises between the two. The locker sharer may give out the combination and the locker may be tampered with," said Julius West Principal Robert Humbles.
"Sometimes students are not as responsible as they would like to represent themselves to be," Humbles said. He added that he has no fund for reimbursements in cases like Jol's, and wouldn't be inclined to reimburse Jol even if there were such a fund. "I can't prove the locker was tampered with," the principal said.
Jol is talking about taking legal action against the school to recover the cost of his missing clothes. But that's not going to achieve any more than the principal's unsympathetic attitude.
There's a better solution. Let's replace the shirt.
According to the MIT alumni affairs office, about 75 members of the class of '64 are known to live in the Washington area. If you're one of those 75, and you have an MIT '64 shirt hanging around the attic, you can make a young man in Rockville very happy. Call me at 334-7276. I'll play middleman.
As the year grows shorter, the list grows longer. Here are some recent inductees into the Super Stoppers Club, that bunch of former cigarette smokers who have decided that breathing is better than coughing, hacking and choking.
Christine DeWitt of Gaithersburg has been clean for more than a year, thanks to her 6-month-old daughter, Charlotte. Being pregnant made Christine realize she had "two good reasons to quit." Well done, Mom.
Sister copied sister in Northern Virginia. Paula Hillery of Arlington quit on June 1, 1984. Sister Pam Kleczek of Falls Church immediately got curious. Finally, in June 1985, Pam took the plunge, too. Good move, Sis.
If you're a boss who smokes, wouldn't you like to read something like this some day? "My boss, Murray Keene, has been off cigarettes for a year and 10 months," writes Connie Neuman, "and his disposition really isn't too bad at all!" Happy nongrowling, Murray.
Mario Bradshaw of Northeast is a quitter, reports his wife, Suzanne. Marcia Sullivan Cislo has two people to "turn in:" her sister, Tricia Stuart of Edinburg, Va., and her friend Susan King of Kensington. Gwen Hines of Northeast also has a friend who kicked the habit: Carolyn Dempsey. And Mary Anne Graham of Round Hill, Va., proudly nominates her husband, Tom.
Carmen Cupp of Lorton has a pat on the back for a quitter she knows rather well: herself. "His colleagues at Mount Vernon High School" congratulate new nonsmoker Don McCool, who's the varsity basketball coach. Martha Wright of Silver Spring salutes her mother, Barbara, who stopped 30 years after starting. And Connie Shumway has three coworkers who deserve nicotine-free plaudits: Richard Golemboski, Carol Thomas Goodenow and Molly McFarland.
Here's a Mom who put her money where her mouth was. Evelyn Allen of Mount Rainier offered each of her two kids $1,000 if they'd quit smoking. Daughter Judy Jenkins of Riva, Md., collected. And son Jack? "Maybe next year," says Mom.
Ken Faulstich of Northwest nominates his wife, Dee White. "No more dirty ashtrays to clean!" exults Ken. Bob Whitmire of Arlington congratulates officemate Diane Mossler, who quit on her first try after 17 fumistic years. Jim Willis joined the healthy ranks a year ago, reports his Dad, Ben, of McLean. And Karla Berg Walker of Silver Spring has three nominees: her father, Karl J. Berg of Rockville, her aunt, Janet Stearn of Gaithersburg, and Janet's husband, Jeffrey.
Three cheers for Fay Fox, who quit smoking after 50 years because her grandchildren, David and Alisha Horwitz, insisted. Boy, did they insist! They hid Fay's cigarettes one day while she was visiting. "They also hid her car keys so she couldn't leave," reports Judith Horwitz, Fay's daughter, "and then sat with her and explained how much they care about her and want her around for many more years." Fay is now at six months and counting. Well done on all sides!
More halo fittings soon. If you have a nominee -- or if you are a nominee -- mail name and details to Super Stoppers Club, c/o Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
Sometimes gamblers win. And sometimes, as a result, sick kids win.
So it went the other day, thanks to Vicki E. Brown of Lorton. "I was blessed in Atlantic City with a big blessing," Vicki writes. "I have two small blessings who with the help of Children's Hospital have seen 9 years and 4 years of blessings."
So Vicki mailed in a blessing of her own -- a check for $100. It will certainly bring the blessing of better health to a child who needs it, Vicki. Thank you very much. TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.