What they're saying

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Associated Press

Editorials from across the United States, on the issues of today.

March 12

Chicago Tribune, on keeping teen drivers alive:

... Every year, car wrecks take more teenagers than any other cause of death. Why does this persist? Cars are safer. Seat belts and airbags save lives. The dangers of drinking and driving have been drummed into the national consciousness. Everyone knows that excessive speed kills.

But with all that, so many teens die. Teens die because they're young and they lack judgment. They die because they're inexperienced at the wheel, filled with a giddy sense of invulnerability. They die because they take risks that older drivers won't.

... Here's one way to save lives: increase the training time behind the wheel. By law, parents are supposed to log 25 hours supervising a neophyte driver. The teen is required to document every minute and the parent is required to confirm that time behind the wheel. ...

There's strong evidence that the more experience a teen can get before receiving his or her license, the better. Driving experience may be more important than the age of the driver in preventing accidents. The statistics show that driving accidents peak in the first 250 miles that a new driver is on the road after getting a license. In a 2003 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the crash rate for new drivers dropped by nearly half after the first 250 miles and continued to fall during the first 1,000 miles.

We hope that all parents take those training requirements seriously. Supervising a neophyte driver can be harrowing, but it is one of the most important things a parent can do. ...

March 13

The Cincinnati Enquirer, on full-day kindergarten debate:

University of Southern California and American University researchers have rattled some of the most basic assumptions of parents, teachers and politicians about all-day kindergarten with all the jarring discord of fingernails on a blackboard.

Their rigorous new cost-benefits analysis casts doubt on the lasting benefits of full-day kindergarten versus half-day and raises many questions, including whether federal Title I money, often used for all-day kindergarten, would be better spent if spread over grades K through 4. ...

The new study, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, confirmed that full-day kids, in the kindergarten year, do better on math, reading and other measures than half-day kids, but then the others quickly catch up. By third grade any academic advantage is gone. More research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Decision-makers on any publicly funded pre-school should probe the quality of learning experiences, not just how many hours the school day lasts. But this study does raise enough doubt that states ought to go slow on moves to mandate full-day kindergarten. ...

March 14

The Record, Bergen County, N.J., on the regulation of flight fare advertising:

The federal Department of Transportation must veto a proposed rule change on fare advertising that would enable airlines to mask the true costs of flights.

Under the guise of making advertising more "flexible," many airlines want to be able to offer seats at one price and then tack on all sorts of extra fees -- most notably fuel surcharges. Such ambiguity in pricing would make it virtually impossible to comparison-shop for the best fares -- and make the already arcane pricing systems for airline tickets even more difficult to understand.

To the DOT's credit, it has rejected a similar rule change in the past. The DOT is now considering four options on fare advertising:

* Maintaining the current situation, which allows only government-imposed fees and taxes to be tacked on to the price of the fare at the time of purchase.

* Requiring that advertised fares also include the cost of fees and taxes.

* Eliminating most requirements for advertised fares. Airlines could advertise lower fares, so long as they tell passengers the full cost of the fare when they go to buy the ticket.

* Eliminating fare-advertising rules altogether.

The DOT should go with the first option -- the status quo. While it would be nice for consumers if airlines were required to include taxes and government fees (the second option), such a rule would force airlines to meet a higher standard than advertising for almost any other business.

The third and fourth options should be rejected. Airline passengers should know the full cost of an airfare so they can comparison-shop and budget their trips without playing a guessing game. To loosen the rules further would invite airlines to use the old bait-and-switch technique -- enticing customers with low prices then socking it to them later with a host of add-ons. ...