Program Aims to Prevent

Teen Car Crashes

The crash that killed a Vienna teenager Sept. 16 ["Vienna Teen Killed in Apparent Road Race," Metro, Sept. 17] is a tragic reminder that teen drivers, because of their lack of experience and maturity behind the wheel, are at a greater risk for traffic crashes than any other age group.

Sadly, traffic crashes kill more teens than any other cause. Therefore, it's important to direct parents and teens to resources where they can get help so crashes like these don't happen again. One such resource is a program called Road Ready Teens that gives parents and teens tips and tools to safely ease teens into driving.

Parents play a very critical role as their teens learn to drive. Road Ready Teens offers parents a free guide that outlines a framework to set and enforce driving ground rules with teens. This framework is based on the best of graduated driver licensing principles that are proven to reduce teen crashes by as much as one-third.

Unfortunately, no state has set teen driving guidelines that reflect the entire slate of recommendations that leading safety experts and research recommend. These recommendations include mandatory seat belt use for drivers and passengers, limiting nighttime driving, restricting the number of teen passengers in the vehicle, no drinking and driving, and no speeding.

Road Ready Teens offers teens an innovative driving video game that helps them understand driving risks and the importance that experience plays in becoming a safe driver. Both the free guide and video game can be found at www.roadreadyteens.org. In addition, the National Safety Council has recently released a comprehensive resource, "A Family Guide to Teen Driver Safety." For more information, visit www.nsc.org.

Road Ready Teens is a public partnership between the Chrysler Group, the National Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Automobile Association.

The best way to respond to these sad and senseless tragedies is to make sure they don't happen again. I urge all parents to take the steps outlined in the Road Ready Teens program.

Chuck Hurley

Vice president

Transportation Safety Group

National Safety Council

Don't Denounce Residents

For Development Concerns

In response to the Aug. 26 article "Midgetville" [Fairfax Extra] and the letter to the editor by Susan Hellman on Sept. 9 ["Decision to Sell Land Is Not Up to Neighbors," Fairfax Extra], becoming involved in decisions regarding development in one's community does not make one a tiger, and it does not mean those involved would deprive Jane Leppin of her right to convert her land into needed cash.

Leppin and Hellman may not be aware that Fairfax County has adopted "residential development criteria" that are to be considered in planning development in the county. The original development plan for the Wedderburn property failed to meet the residential development criteria in ways too numerous to list.

It would be wonderful if the citizens of Fairfax County could count on their elected officials to ensure that the residential development criteria were met before approving development plans. However, developers in our county use some of their tremendous profits to hire high-priced land-use lawyers unavailable to the average citizen. They use other chunks of their tremendous profits to fill the campaign coffers of those candidates they think most likely to enable them to continue amassing those profits at the expense of the quality of life of county residents.

The neighbors who have become involved in the Midgetville development issue are not tigers. They are good citizens who are doing their best, in the face of tremendous odds, to minimize the negative impacts of Leppin's necessary real estate transaction.

Elaine Wolf Komarow

Vienna

Exotic Animals Should Not

Be Seen as Pets

Caroline Seitz, founder and owner of Reptiles Alive! may certainly mean well by trying to teach people that reptiles do not make good "pets," but her message is largely overshadowed by her actions ["Trying to Turn 'Eww' Into 'Ahh,' " Fairfax Extra, Sept. 9].

Although Seitz warns people about the hazards of exotic animal ownership, people are often inspired to obtain a "fad pet" when they see them carted around and handled at shows and parties. "Pet" reptiles are often placed in small cages that are improperly heated and fed diets that are completely foreign to them. Many wind up in climates they are not suited to and are tossed aside when a new fad arises.

It's contradictory for exhibitors to say that exotic animals don't make good pets while treating them as pets. Seitz can better help these fascinating animals by leading by example.

Heather Moore

People for the Ethical

Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Norfolk

Admissions Solution Lies

In Opening New School

The obvious solution to the admissions issue at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology ["Jefferson Policy Is Now Up to School Board," Extra Credit, Fairfax Extra, Sept. 9] is to open another high school for science and technology since the demand is so great in the county.

Has this been considered? With the United States lagging behind other nations in math and science, why don't we train more qualified students?

Peggy A. Crunkilton

Falls Church

Students Ryan Via, from left, Priya Nalli and Katheryn Bixler leave the site of a memorial for Eric Pearce Johnson, a 16-year-old Vienna boy whose vehicle swerved off the road last week and crashed into this tree.