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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have started this letter to you a hundred times, but have never been able to finish it. I hope you will print it.

When I was 16, my mother had a baby -- my only sister. Mom was almost 40 and my brother was 12. After we adjusted to the shock, my sister became the joy of our life. Her smile could banish the gloomies, and she was a treasure to us all.

Sadly, less than two years later (only three weeks after my high school graduation), my best friend -- who lived next door -- accidentally backed her car over my sister, killing her instantly. My little sister had escaped from our back yard without our family's knowledge. It was the worst day of my life, and worse still for my friend. My parents did their best to comfort her, but her large family included her own baby sister who was nearly the same age as mine and was a constant reminder of the tragedy.

Abby, people drive through our neighborhood far too fast. I want to run after them and shout, "Don't you know you could never stop at this speed if a child ran in front of your car? Don't you know that if you kill a child, there will be two deaths? Your life will be over, too."

My family recovered from my sister's death, but my friend never did. The accident ruined her life. She had been at the top of her class, and everyone expected a bright future for her. Instead, she lived through failed counseling, broken marriages, and her career crashed -- all because of a tragic accident that wasn't her fault. She just couldn't forgive herself.

At our 20th high-school reunion, a former classmate asked me, "Hey, whatever happened to that girl who killed that kid?" I responded, "That girl was our class secretary and my best friend, and that kid was my sister."

Please remind your readers that no car needs a heavy foot on the gas while navigating a residential area. And for good measure, before starting a car, walk the long way around to the driver's door so you can check behind the vehicle. Investing a few extra seconds for safety may save a precious child's life -- and your own as well. -- LONELY SISTER IN CHESAPEAKE, VA.

P.S. If you print this, I will clip it and anonymously mail it to a couple of neighbors -- mothers who should know better than to race around our neighborhood.

DEAR LONELY SISTER: I'm printing your letter for all to see. Your message is one I hope every driver will take to heart.

DEAR ABBY: My partner and I, who are in our 50s, have two terrific friends who are in their 30s. They are generous, considerate and polite, but have a habit that drives us crazy. Whenever they visit, we usually wind up in the kitchen where they sit their backsides on the counter to talk and visit. There are chairs and barstools in the area. Proper seating should not be a problem.

Are we being old-fashioned or is this impolite? If so, how do we correct the situation? -- HOMER IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR HOMER: Your friends are used to a more casual kind of hospitality than you are used to extending. As long as their backsides are covered, I see nothing wrong with their sitting on the counter. However, since it offends you, request that your guests seat themselves where you prefer. (An alternative would be to spray the counter with bleach before they arrive ... only kidding!)

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600