Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the mid-1990s, when I was a reporter for The Ames Tribune, a police sergeant said something I’ll never forget. Following a fatal pedestrian-train accident on the Union Pacific Railroad line the sergeant said: “When you walk down the bed of a train track and pick up body parts it gives you new respect for the power of a train.”

The same is true with automobiles. Driving is not a right, but rather a privilege, an enormous responsibility. In driver’s education at Carroll High School in 1985 Bob Witowski had us think a good deal about the limited space between two passing cars on U.S. 30. Life can end quickly on just a small error, a distraction.

Cars are not playthings.

In today’s paper, Daily Times Herald reporter Jared Strong has a story with more details on the Missouri man who was allegedly drunk when his pickup truck crashed and killed Chrystal Olerich, 18, of Lake View, and two others.

Investigators retrieved the data recorder — what is often referred to as a newer vehicle’s “black box” — from the 2003 Chevrolet truck.

The box revealed that truck’s top speed was 92 mph, two seconds before the crash.

In the days following the deaths of young people connected to alcohol and driving, we carry the police reports that include information on the role of booze, hoping that our young people who read the story will find teachable moments in the mistakes of others.

We’ve tried to help kids avoid the situations.

Our news staff has written stories about a grieving father who trucks around the demolished vehicle in which his son died, killed by a drunk teenager in an oncoming car.

For years our staff’s school reporters have dutifully completed features on programs related to drunken driving and teens.

We appeal to reason. We lay out the facts, bare, ugly and real.

But we know each time we run a story on the lethal calculus of youth, driving and alcohol that it’s only a matter of time until someone else’s number turns up with the Driving and Drinking Death Lottery — as either a driver or a passenger.

*****

In December 2009 a Taking Note column carried the following headline: “Marco Rubio — The Republican to Watch in 2010.”

“If I were a conservative twenty-something political activist, I’d be heading to Palm Beach or Tampa right now and looking for a job with Rubio,” the column said. “Rubio’s got the goods for the national stage, and should he take that U.S. Senate seat, he’ll instantly be in the running as a potential vice presidential running mate for the GOP nominee in 2012.”

Now there’s research to show that Rubio, a U.S, senator from Florida, changes the landscape in his all-important state when added to the Republican ticket, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) poll of registered voters in Florida.

Assuming the selection of Rubio in the vice president spot, the Republican presidential nominee would secure 46 percent to President Barack Obama’s 41 percent, with 2 percent voting for an independent candidate and 12 percent undecided. The poll also showed Mitt Romney (25 percent) running neck-and-neck with Herman Cain (24 percent) among registered Republicans in Florida.

*****

Writing in Rolling Stone magazine the provocative Matt Taibbi says Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, doesn’t present himself well when tired. In fact, Taibbi writes, Perry can resemble “a funeral director with a hangover.”

*****

Does “Boss” have the right stuff?

The new Starz television series starring Kelsey Grammer as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane is a layered political drama, that so far, is intriguing. Grammer absolutely devours the role of the big-city boss. Of course, enough real drama plays out in our politics, but the Friday night show is worth catching if for no other reason than to see Grammer and his scene (make that series) stealing star turn.