Letters

Letters Seat belt laws needed for children

To the editor:

House Bill 1317, which requires the use of seat belts by all children through age 17, was introduced by the Committee on Health and Human Services at the request of the governor on Jan. 24.

In 1998, five children ages 5-13 were killed in South Dakota in motor vehicle crashes. No child restraint or seat belts were used in any of these crashes. An additional 387 were injured in crashes; 175 of those did not use any safety restraints. Also, in 1998, 21 children ages 14-17 were killed in motor vehicle crashes; 17 of them did not wear seat belts. An additional 1,247 children ages 14-17 were injured in crashes and 649 did not use restraints of any kind.

We've all seen numerous stories of the needless tragedies where a promising young person is killed when ejected from a vehicle in a soft rollover crash. If the young person had taken the few seconds it takes to buckle up, they may have survived. Yet, South Dakota continues to have one of the lowest seat belt usage rates in the entire nation at approximately 46 percent. I would hope that you agree these needless tragedies and waste of precious lives is unacceptable.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is states closed all the gaps in their child passenger safety laws and adults properly restrained children ages 0-15 100 percent of the time, we would save as many as 630 additional children's lives and prevent an additional 182,000 serious injuries every year, nationwide.

South Dakota must do its part and close the gaps we have in our seat belt law. We must improve the safety of our children. South Dakota must pass a law that will help save our children's lives and help protect our children from injury.

AAA South Dakota support HB 1317 which mandates the use of seat belts by all children through age 17, and I would ask that you and your readers support it as well. Please contact your state senators and representatives now and tell them how important this bill is and ask them to help reduce the number of deaths and the number of injuries our children sustain in motor vehicle crashes. Ask them for their support and urge them to vote yes on HB 1317.

Sincerely,

Cheri Cihak

Director of marketing and public affairs

AAA South Dakota

Sioux Falls

SDITC members will provide connections

To the editor:

Recently, Gov. Janklow and U S West announced the next step in a partnership that is now known as the Digital Dakota Network, a statewide K-12 intranet that will put South Dakota's students on the very leading edge of technology. U S West's role in supplying hardware and video equipment to schools throughout the state will allow students access to the same type of information and instruction regardless of whether they live in Sioux Falls, Stanley County or Smee.

As president of the South Dakota Independent Telephone Coalition (SDITC), the organization that represents South Dakota's 43 other local telephone companies, I applaud the vision and effort put forth by Gov. Janklow to make this project a reality. However, by only discussing the role of the state and U S West, a vital part of the partnership has not been recognized.

Over the past decade, U S West made a strategic decision to sell a number of their local telephone exchanges in South Dakota to rural telecommunications cooperatives and independent companies. As a result, South Dakota's rural telecommunications providers now serve more than 80 percent of the state's geography.

Because of the vast area served by SDITC members, South Dakota's rural telecommunications companies will provide the connections that will enable the Digital Dakota Network to supply its service to roughly half of the state's school buildings and more than three-fourths of the state's school districts. The rural telecommunications companies, through a joint fiber-optics venture called South Dakota Network, are providing this service at a deeply discounted rate because South Dakota's rural communities are our lifeblood.

Since the first rural telephone company was started in South Dakota back in the 1890s, the state's rural telecommunications providers have had a direct stake in the success of the rural communities within their service areas. Because rural telecommunications companies are headquartered in communities throughout the state, the managers, employees and board members of these South Dakota-based companies work day-in and day-out to see that their hometowns remains viable and vital.

Without the involvement of the state's rural telecommunications companies, the advantages offered by the Digital Dakota Network would only be available to those students in our state's urban areas and the so-called "digital divide" would indeed become a reality. If our youth are to have the same technological and educational opportunities as their counterparts in other more urbanized areas, the rural telecommunications companies realize they need to be a leader in this partnership.

SDITC's member companies know that what we bring to the table in this partnership is a dependable, state-of-the-art connection that will allow South Dakota's students a new view of the world and a new outlook on their own personal horizons.

Our companies are proud to be a part of this exciting and essential partnership to develop our students for the challenges of 2000 and beyond.

Jack Brown

President, South Dakota Independent Telephone Coalition, and Management Consultant, Golden West Companies

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