Efficiency, not Speed

In response to the letter from Gerald Watson of Lusby [Extra, Sept. 11], I would like to offer an alternate view. I have often experienced the traffic creeping along from St. Mary's to Solomons across the Thomas Johnson Bridge and have found that as soon as traffic moves past the apex of the bridge it picks right up. This may indeed be due to "uneducated drivers" unable to maintain a steady speed or trucks that can't quite mount the steep grade. I think, however, that the traffic problem is due less to the need to keep Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Staples supplied than it is a tribute to those who work in St. Mary's County but choose to live in Calvert County because of the excellent school system.

The architect of the Thomas Johnson Bridge wisely designed it so that not only is the bridge beautiful to look at from afar, but those driving across the bridge have an unobstructed aerial view of the land, the river and the bay. I think that perhaps the problem of the slow traffic is simply that drivers are overcome by the sheer beauty of the view from the top of the bridge. No matter how many times I have driven over the bridge on a beautiful afternoon, I understand why the traffic slows down. They can't help it. Drivers do not intentionally slow down. They are not unaware of those following behind them, and they do not want to cause them hardship -- they simply have to drink in the richness of the area that we are privileged to live in. The view we sometimes take for granted is what some people see only on their vacations a few days per year.

The solution is not to build another span, widen the lanes or institute a "keep the same speed" driver education program. There are too many cars "filled" with one person. There is no public transportation between Calvert and St. Mary's. Ride sharing between counties has not been promoted -- possibly because the distance doesn't seem as drastic as for those driving to D.C. every day. The parking lot under the bridge, rarely used on weekdays, would be an ideal ride-sharing lot. Calvert and St. Mary's counties must work together to create a viable inter-county public transportation system and work to educate people on the advantages of riding a well-managed bus system.

Watson is right. Gas is too expensive to waste. The solution to the problem is to help people become less reliant on their cars for the long run, not to teach them to drive faster.

Beth Lanier

Solomons

The PTA

Aaahhh, back to school. Smells of crayons and sharpened pencils in the air. School buses on the roads. And time to join your local PTA.

Research shows that children do better when their parents are involved at home and at school. Grades are higher. Test scores rise. Self-esteem grows. Schools improve.

By joining your local PTA, you join the largest volunteer child advocacy group in the nation. You probably know that PTA enhances education at your child's school by providing programs, assisting teachers and more. But did you also know that PTA has been a driving force in establishing school lunch programs, after-school programs, immunization programs, school bus safety and TV rating standards?

When you become a member of PTA, you will enjoy many other wonderful benefits such as: online parenting resources; Our Children magazine; discounts at FedEx, Kinko's, BarnesandNoble.com and other businesses; e-newsletters on parenting and legislative issues; leadership training; and state and national PTA conventions. You will become part of a large community of parents who care about their children's education as much as you do.

Everyone interested in children's education and welfare -- parents, educators, students, grandparents, local businesses and other citizens -- is invited to join PTA. To show full support, consider signing up both parents, joining more than one local PTA, giving a membership to grandparents and signing up your child as a student member.

Then, after you join PTA, take it to the next step: Commit to volunteering. We have a strong tradition of volunteering in Calvert County schools. Last year alone, volunteers recorded over 130,000 hours in our schools. Add to that the many hours not reported, and we can see that Calvert parents are extremely generous in giving their time to schools.

In PTA's Three for Me program, PTA members promise to spend just three hours this school year volunteering on behalf of a child's education. There is a broad range of volunteering opportunities to fit any type of schedule. When children see their parents and other adults demonstrating that they care about education, the children will care too.

For more information on becoming a member, contact your local school principal, PTA representative or me at rosecrunkleton@comcast.net. Or visit National PTA online at www.pta.org. See you at school!

Rose C. Crunkleton

President,

Calvert Council of PTAs

Owings

Unseen Neglect

Attention, state and federal legislators:

A few weeks ago a Washington television station reported that Kentucky is the only state in the union that requires children to have their vision tested before they are enrolled in school. I find it absolutely atrocious in this day and time that kids are being sent to school and can't see what the teacher is writing on the blackboard. Their ability to learn is unnecessarily hindered because of this neglect. I know I suffered the same fate. I didn't get glasses until I was in the fifth grade and was held back because I couldn't keep up with my classmates. This not only shamed me but undermined my self-confidence. The news report also said that children are receiving Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses as well as other problems instead of having their vision checked to find the real cause of their learning disability. Please, please make it mandatory for children to have their vision checked before they are enrolled in school. Don't let more children slip through the cracks and never have a decent chance in life. They are the future of this country and need your help.

Evelyn C. Fowler

Mechanicsville