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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have noticed that the majority of automobile commercials on TV today show speeding cars. One in particular shows two ladies in sport utility vehicles racing over curbs and bumps to win a race to a parking place. This is portrayed as something good and fun you can do when you drive a brand-new SUV. Another commercial portrays someone leaving his workplace and racing down a twisting road to unwind. On and on it goes with advertised cars speeding across the screen.

These commercials, and many others like them, imply that the better car is the "faster" car, and that it's cool and enjoyable to drive in this manner.

Abby, what is this teaching new drivers? Don't these commercials promote reckless driving? -- VALERIE S. RIVARD, MANCELONA, MICH.

DEAR VALERIE: Mature drivers (of any age) realize that obeying the speed limit is the best way to promote wreck-less driving. While it's obvious the advertisers are implying that speed is desirable and thrilling, I agree that an unintended subliminal message is that reckless driving is acceptable. That's dangerous and irresponsible.

DEAR ABBY: On June 1, 1999, my son died of an overdose. We went to visit relatives over Memorial Day weekend. He found a box of outdated prescription drugs while we were there.

Abby, he was only 18 years old. I hope you will share my letter with the public. He had made three suicide attempts prior. People told me it was all for attention.

Parents, take your sad teen-ager seriously or you'll end up like me ... A BROKENHEARTED MOTHER IN S.F.

DEAR BROKENHEARTED MOTHER: Please accept my condolences for the loss of your son. If there is one lesson to be learned from your letter, it's that a suicide attempt is NOT a bid for attention -- it's a cry for help. And that means professional help. In most communities it's as near as the telephone, in the form of a suicide or crisis hotline.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for printing the letter from "Happy Again in San Diego," the woman who told you about writing a list of qualities she loved about her husband and how it helped her marriage.

My husband and I rarely celebrate anything but Christmas, but this year I decided to follow "Happy's" example and write a list of my own for Valentine's Day. In addition to the characteristics I find appealing about him, I included things that I appreciated -- for example, the fact that he has stopped smoking inside the house (I am a nonsmoker), and that he always remembers to pick up certain items that I like when he goes to the grocery store.

He was obviously touched by my efforts -- I thought he was going to burst into tears! We have been together for 26 years, and you know the old story -- "The spark had gone out of our marriage." Well, thanks to "Happy's" suggestion and a little time on my part, things have never been better.

So, Abby, a thousand thanks. You've really put a lift in my love life! -- DAWN IN PHOENIX

DEAR DAWN: And you put a lift in my spirits. Thanks for an upper of a letter. Others can learn from it. It takes only a second to jot down a kind word, and the result can be enjoyed for many years.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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