Five Things that Could Get You Pulled Over


5 Things that Could Get You Pulled Over

Image Source: Einar Jørgen Haraldseid

Being pulled over can be frustrating, scary, and inconvenient. You don’t wake up hoping to see flashing lights in your rearview during the daily commute. So how can you avoid the attention of your friendly neighborhood highway patrolman? Start by steering clear of these top five violations.

  1. Speeding

Speed violations are considered the number one reason for being pulled over by drivers and police officers alike. And it’s no wonder: an estimated 20% of all drivers will be cited for driving over the speed limit this year. On average, 112,000 speeding tickets are issued every day, adding up to a whopping 41,000,000 citations every year.

Speeding is one of the easiest traffic violations to see and cracking down on speed demons makes a noticeable difference in road safety. Studies suggest that for every 100 more speeding citations given in a month in a single county, the average number of car accidents decreases by 14.3. It’s easy to get going pretty fast in hopes of getting to work on time or passing the jerk who’s driving way under 65mph, but remember that staying within speed restrictions is the easiest way to prevent a traffic citation or an accident.

  1. Distracted Driving

Distractions on the road come in many forms: your least favorite song coming on the radio, a backseat full of rowdy kids, or passing an accident. The number of people injured in distracted driving accidents has steadily increased since 2011. According to Cristall Kenneth, a firm of ICBC lawyers in Vancouver, the most common injuries are:

  • brain injuries
  • spinal damage
  • whiplash
  • broken bones

Driving safely should be your first priority. Letting your front-seat passenger control the music, avoiding eating while driving, and establishing rules for passengers to ensure that you can pay adequate attention to the road can keep you safe (and free of traffic citations).

  1. Illegal Phone Use

The most common kind of distracted driving is driving while using a cell phone. While no state bans all cell phone use by drivers, 13 states, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands prohibit hand-held cell phone use. All but five states prohibit text messaging while behind the wheel. Most cell phone laws are primary enforcement laws, meaning an officer may cite you for illegal cell phone use even if you haven’t violated any other traffic laws. (Information: Governors Highway Safety Association)

Cell phone use behind the wheel can have serious consequences. Answering the average text message takes five seconds, which, when you’re driving at 55 mph, is enough time to travel the length of a football field. It gives you plenty of space to run off the road or collide with another vehicle. It’s important to know and follow the cell phone laws in your current state and any states you visit frequently, but you should also exercise common sense. Postpone distracting or intense phone calls until after you’ve reached your destination, even if you’re using a handheld device.

  1. Reckless Driving

Aggressive or reckless driving offenses account for more than 30% of all annual traffic violations. The most common citations are for:

  • failure to yield right of way – 11.4%
  • failure to obey traffic signs – 7.4%
  • improper turns – 6.6%
  • improper passing – 4.1%
  • improper following – 1.7%
  • improper lane changes – 1.5%
  • driving on a sidewalk, median, or shoulder – 1.4%

You may think tailgating the minivan in front of you will convince the driver to follow the posted speed limit, but it’s more likely to convince the passing highway patrolman to give you a citation for improper following.

  1. Equipment Violations

Equipment violation tickets can be a hassle—they add mandatory court attendance and fees to the cost of regular maintenance. To avoid these citations, check your vehicle for these common violations:

  • expired registration
  • nonfunctional headlights or taillights
  • illegal glass tinting
  • missing side mirrors
  • no windshield wipers
  • a broken windshield

These unsafe conditions can land you with a “fix-it” ticket, which will incur a dismissal fee along with the cost of making the needed repairs. It’s more efficient (and cheaper) to stay on top of vehicle upkeep.

Avoiding these common pitfalls can keep you under traffic officers’ radar while making your daily drives that much safer.

This article is from Savannah Coulsen, a freelance writer. She lives in Long Beach. Savannah loves to read and write and she hopes to write a novel someday. Savannah also loves learning and is a self-proclaimed health guru.

Chicago Hospital Accused of Performing Unneeded Tracheotomies for Medicare Payments


There have been many, many incidents of Medicare fraud by medical providers, but this one (if true) is just awful:

The Bloomberg News reports about a Federal probe into allegations of unnecessary tracheotomies at Chicago’s Sacred Heart Hospital. Bloomberg reports, “Based in part on surreptitious tape recordings, an FBI affidavit lays out allegations that a Sacred Heart pulmonologist kept patients too sedated to breathe on their own, then ordered unneeded tracheotomies for them — enabling the for-profit hospital to reap revenue of as much as $160,000 per case. The Sacred Heart case is unusual because of the troubling nature of some of the allegations, said Ryan Stumphauzer, a former federal health care fraud prosecutor in Miami who reviewed the affidavit. ‘A typical indictment might allege phantom billing or improper coding,’ he said. ‘This complaint alleges the hospital and doctors were performing unnecessary invasive surgery to justify false billing.’”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Friday Fun


We’ve probably all seen the movie Flashdance, but how about a Flashwaltz? Enjoy.

CDC Warns of Suffocation Risk From Infant Sleep Positioners


CBS News reported on its website that a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that infant sleep positioners “have caused 13 suffocation deaths in young infants since 1997.” As the story noted, “All 13 reported deaths tied to the devices occurred in children younger than 4-months-old, nine of whom were placed on their sides to sleep. Many of the children were found lying on their stomachs, unresponsive by caregivers.”

The New York Times “Well” blog reported that “makers of the devices claim that by keeping infants in a specific position as they sleep, they can prevent several conditions, including acid reflux and flat head syndrome, a deformation caused by pressure on one part of the skull.” However, “the devices have never been shown in studies to prevent SIDS, and they may actually raise the likelihood of sudden infant death, officials say. One of the leading risk factors for sudden infant death is placing a baby on his or her stomach at bedtime, and health officials have routinely warned parents to lay babies on their backs.”

HealthDay also covered this story.

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Aquatic Physical Therapy 101: Why You Should Take Your Exercise to the Pool


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For people who suffer from arthritis, chronic back pain or pain due to some type of spinal cord injury, relief may be in sight. Thanks to aquatic physical therapy, aches and pains can be addressed and remedied in the water. In some cases, patients will be transitioned from water-based therapy to a rehabilitation program on land, while others will complete all of their therapy in the water. Either way, aquatic therapy is an ideal option for anyone looking to get back to their old, pain-free self again.

Why Water is Better

Physical and occupational therapists have known about the connection between water and healing for decades. Regardless of the type of injury or chronic pain that people have, getting into water heated to around 92 degrees will help them achieve full-body functioning. For example, water is naturally buoyant, which lessens the force of gravity and allows people to perform their exercises much more easily than on land. In addition, exercising in warm water can help alleviate discomfort by helping relax tight and sore muscles, reducing the occurrence of spasms and boosting blood flow. Sometimes aquatic therapy is the only time patients can enjoy some blessed pain-free moments. As a bonus, water acts as a natural weight (600-700 times more resistant than air), providing a terrific source of resistance to strengthen muscles—including the body’s most important muscle, the heart.

Heal Faster

In addition to joint or back issues, aquatic physical therapy is an outstanding option for other health conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders, gait or walking issues and people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury. In general, those who take part in aquatic physical therapy often show a marked increase in their healing. They notice improved flexibility, better stamina, improved circulation and an increase in their body’s tolerance for other therapeutic exercises.

Easy Modifications

Aquatic physical therapy can also be modified depending on the physical abilities of the people who are doing it. For example, those suffering from osteoporosis may find it easier and more effective to stand in water that reaches the chest so they can work on resistant-style exercises. Another benefit of aquatic physical therapy, notes Helen Hayes Hospital, is a marked improvement in balance. Because the water pushes up against the body in an even way, it allows people to practice standing and moving around while being supported by H2O. Water is also buoyant and forgiving enough that if a person feels like they’re about to fall, there’s usually enough time to react and regain equilibrium.

Aquatic Therapy Anywhere

While patients might feel frustrated trying to complete traditional physical therapy in a gym or facility, chances are good they will feel comfortable doing the exercises in a private pool. If a patient doesn’t have a pool at their home, easy-to-maintain above ground pools are a relatively inexpensive purchase to be able to have private therapy sessions in the comfort of one’s own backyard. Just make sure to install a pool solar heating system to regulate the water temperature. Aquatic therapy helps most patients feel better both physically and emotionally.

This article is from Anne Sanchez. Anne is a sports doctor, and swimming teacher. She’s married with 2 kids, and has 2 cats. 

CDC Report: Fewer Children Hurt by ATV Injuries


This news release says the reason for a reduction in the number of injuries caused by ATVs is unknown. However, many people would say part of the reason is the lawsuits filed by consumer lawyers that have forced manufacturers to increase safety features on these vehicles. That’s also why our automobiles today are so much safer than 30 years ago. Sometimes it just takes suing manufacturers to get them to do the right thing.

The Los Angeles Times reports in its “Science Now” section that the CDC released a report that revealed ATV injuries among children age 15 and under increased 35% between 2001 and 2004, but declined 37% between 2004 and 2010. Researchers are unsure what caused the decrease in injuries, because overall ATV use “more than doubled” over the course of the decade, “with an estimated 10.6 million four-wheeled ATVs in use in 2010.” However, as the Times notes, while the “numbers of ATVs increased, fewer young people may have ridden the rugged, four-wheeled recreational vehicles as the decade wore on. During the economic recession of the mid-2000s, new ATV sales declined – and with them, perhaps, new riders.”

Reuters reports Ruth Shults, with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and her colleagues looked at information provided by a US injury surveillance system, which recorded emergency visits to 66 hospitals nationwide. The data, published Monday in Pediatrics, showed boys were hurt twice as often in ATV accidents as girls. Additionally, broken bones were reported in about a quarter of ER visits, and about one in eight children had to be hospitalized. Reuters notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises banning children under 16 from using ATVs.

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Chevy Recalls Camaros for Peeling Warning Label


This may be the silliest automaker recall ever.

USA Today reports that Chevrolet is recalling its 2013 and 2014 Camaros because the air bag warning label located on the sun visor may be peeling off. In a letter to NHTSA, Chevy states that it will either replace the label or, in some cases, may replace the whole visor. If the sticker is still sticking, owners can send a note to opt out of the recall. In its “Kicking Tires” blog Cars published a brief explanation of the recall and instructed owners to call GM and the NHTSA for more information.

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Supreme Court to Consider Deadlines for Suing Federal Government


The AP reports that the Supreme Court “will consider how strict deadlines should be for people to sue the federal government for negligence.” The court on Monday agreed to hear two cases “where lawsuits were filed too late,” and the AP notes that in both cases, “a federal appeals court ruled it was fair to let them go forward anyway.” The Obama Administration “says Congress intended the deadlines to be firm.” The AP notes that in one of the cases before the court, the FHWA “improperly installed safety barriers that caused a fatal accident” and “the plaintiff claims he discovered new evidence after the 2-year deadline passed.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

Editorial: Abbott’s Reluctance to Ban Texting While Driving is Familiar and Unfortunate


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An editorial in the Dallas Morning News recently called to task Attorney General (and candidate for governor) Greg Abbott for his position on texting while driving. Abbott is following the example of Rick Perry in saying the government has no business telling people whether they can text while driving. The hypocrisy of this position is self-evident when you consider all he things that government does tell us we can or cannot do. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

We have speed limits, not speed recommendations; seat belt laws, not seat belt suggestions. To deny government’s critical role in shaping safe driving behaviors is to deny its inherent responsibility as overseer of roads.

And often, such behavior modifications require not only a carrot, but occasionally, the stick. A 2012 National Safety Council report reminds us that, in 1981, after 15 years of education about seat belts, only 14 percent of Americans wore them. But over the next 15 years, education combined with state laws increased use to 61 percent. Today, use is up to 84 percent. As Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the council wrote, “Education combined with laws and high-visibility enforcement is a method that has been proved successful in addressing transportation safety issues, and it should be used to address cellphone distracted driving.”

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported Saturday that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner for governor, opposes a statewide ban on texting while driving. His position is unfortunate for all Texans, but particularly teens and young adults.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 people lost their lives in 2010 in distraction-related accidents, often due to the use of portable electronic devices. The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions, an insurance trade group in the state, found that 13.4 percent of the 3,048 traffic fatalities in Texas in 2011 were linked to distracted driving.

No wonder, then, that most states now prohibit texting while driving. Texas is one of seven that do not.

An Abbott spokesman explained that the attorney general is against more government mandates that “micromanage adult driving behavior.” Such a statement seems long on political gamesmanship (gubernatorial opponent Wendy Davis co-authored one of the texting-while-driving bans in the Texas Senate) and short on Texans’ best interests.

It is the same specious argument Gov. Rick Perry used when opposing text-banning measures during his 12 years as governor. When he vetoed a bipartisan texting-while-driving measure proposed by former Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick in 2011, Perry called it “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

Some adult behaviors merit micromanaging. Texting while driving is one.

Featured Link — Seat Belt Safety


This is a commercial insurance site, but they have a great graphic about seat belt safety. Check it out.

Editorial: Dallas County School Bus Camera Ticketing System Busted


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Excerpts from an editorial in the Dallas Morning News:

Only in baseball does a 70 percent failure rate still translate to a good average. When a program touted as an innovative way to cut down on motorists passing stopped school buses swings and misses at that rate, something is badly amiss.

Our hats are off to Dallas Morning News Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber, who recently uncovered what one might politely describe as a passel of problems with Dallas County Schools’ pioneering school bus camera program. Since fall 2012, cameras on Dallas County school buses have snapped pictures of about 56,000 supposed violators. Yet, of the more than 7,000 drivers who contested their ticket at an administrative hearing, an astounding 70 percent won dismissals over some human or technical flaw. That’s real money lost, about $1.5 million left uncollected at the hearing stage alone.

By law, motorists must halt whenever a stopped school bus has its red stop sign arm extended and warning lights blinking as a way to protect the children getting on and off. Hearing officers somehow managed to improperly interpret the law, resulting in a batch of dismissals. Other motorists managed to elude the $300 fine because of quirks and inconsistencies in the GPS system used to pinpoint the location. When the GPS gets it wrong, the case goes away.

In a world where bureaucratic foul-ups like this are all too frequent, some might think of this revenue loss as tiny stuff. But there was no good reason to have gotten this wrong and every reason to get it right.

Happy Independence Day!


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My message is the same as last year: I hope you each have a safe and happy holiday today. Please take a moment from the fun to think about our great country and about the many men and women who have sacrificed to give us the freedoms we enjoy. You might also consider what our founding fathers would think about the politicians we currently have running our country now. I doubt they would be pleased about any of the three branches of government today.

End The Violence Program For Offenders


My law school friend Dr. Bob Gordon, through his Wilmington Institute, is assisting with a Battering Intervention and Prevention Program that shows great promise. Here is an explanation from his site:

Serving Dallas, Denton, Collin and Rockwall Counties, Texas.

Goals: To help offenders and those who are vulnerable to family violence learn to engage in caring, considerate behavior. Our program emphasizes, accountability, education & prevention. It is presented in an interesting way by experts who emphasize safety and a happy life.

BIPP page image 1 BIPP page image 2

Standards: Our program is based on the standards of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the policies of the Texas Council of Family Violence. The clinical director of the program is psychologist – lawyer, Dr. Robert Gordon. He has helped persons with family violence concerns for more than 40 years. The program coordinator is Ms. Joy Bengfort.

Schedules: The program is offered in a 24 or 36 week format. Times and days are conveniently scheduled to minimize disrupting work and family responsibilities.

Fees and Costs: Our fees are based upon a sliding scale.

To Enroll: Call 972 280 9444 or email: Joy@DrBob.com.

Read more…

BIPP

End Violence For Victims

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Decline in Wisconsin


In a more than 3,800-word piece, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the difficulty of pursuing medical malpractice lawsuits in Wisconsin, the result of state regulations and legal decisions which have caused the number of lawsuits to decline. According to the article, court records show that medical malpractice suits in the state have dropped “more than 50% since 1999,” reaching 140 last year, while the state-run malpractice fund “has grown to more than $1.15 billion, a total larger than all the money it has paid out during its entire 39-year history.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

July 4th Fireworks Safety Starts with Common Sense Tips


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When I was growing up, my brother, my friends, and I did absolutely stupid stuff with fireworks. It’s a minor miracle we survived with all our fingers. Maybe if we had read this list of safety tips we would have been smarter.

Please stay safe this holiday weekend.

Washington, D.C. – Using consumer fireworks on our nation’s birthday is as American as apple pie, backyard barbecues and parades on Main Street.  And it is equally safe if a few common sense rules are followed, says Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety.  Nancy notes that thanks to testing of consumer fireworks in China, through the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory and other testing programs, and rigorous enforcement of federal fireworks regulations by the CPSC, consumer fireworks today are safer than ever before.  But Nancy notes that fireworks related accidents do occur each year, however, most could be eliminated if some basic safety steps had been taken.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers these common sense safety tips for using consumer fireworks in the hopes that injuries to consumers can be greatly reduced this season:

  • Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
  • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks.  Read the caution label before igniting.
  • Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Avoid using homemade fireworks or illegal explosives: They can kill you!
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department

And note these special safety tips, if using sparklers:

  • Always remain standing while using sparklers.
  • Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers.
  • Never hold, or light, more than one sparkler at a time.
  • Never throw sparklers.
  • Sparkler wire and stick remain hot long after the flame has gone out.  Be sure to drop spent sparklers in a bucket of water.
  • Teach children not to wave sparklers, or run, while holding sparklers.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety urges Americans to follow these common sense safety rules this Fourth of July in their holiday celebrations.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose sole mission is to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of consumer fireworks.  For a full list of consumer fireworks safety tips and a safety video, please visit www.FireworksSafety.org.

Automobile Black Boxes: Good or Bad for Consumers?


We all know that airplanes have “black boxes” — flight recorders that keep track of the cockpit conversation and aircraft settings for a period of time. If the plane crashes, this information is helpful in determining the cause of the crash.

But did you know your late-model car probably also has a “black box” that records your speed, brake application, seat belt use, and other data points? It doesn’t record your conversations of course.

There is quite a debate about whether these black boxes in cars are a good or bad thing for drivers. They can be helpful in certain situations for determining fault in collisions. But consumers don’t have an option as to whether they want the black box. The device just comes with the car. So, does the potential helpfulness of the information outweigh our right to privacy? That’s the question.

An article from the New York Times News Service details the pros and cons of automobile black boxes. Here are excerpts:

When Timothy Murray crashed his government-issued Ford Crown Victoria in 2011, he was fortunate, as car accidents go. Murray, then the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, was not seriously hurt, and he told the police he was wearing a seat belt and was not speeding.

But a different story soon emerged. Murray was driving more than 100 miles an hour and was not wearing a seat belt, according to the computer in his car that tracks certain actions. He was given a $555 ticket; he later said he had fallen asleep.

The case put Murray at the center of a growing debate over a little-known but increasingly important piece of equipment buried deep in the innards of a car: the event data recorder, more commonly known as the black box.

About 96 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States have the boxes, and in September 2014, if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has its way, all will have them.

The boxes have long been used by car companies to assess the performance of their vehicles.

But data stored in the devices is increasingly being used to identify safety problems in cars and as evidence in traffic accidents and criminal cases. And the trove of data inside the boxes has raised privacy concerns, including questions about who owns the information, and what it can be used for, even as critics have raised questions about its reliability.

To federal regulators, law enforcement authorities and insurance companies, the data is an indispensable tool to investigate crashes.

The black boxes “provide critical safety information that might not otherwise be available to NHTSA to evaluate what happened during a crash — and what future steps could be taken to save lives and prevent injuries,” David Strickland, the safety agency’s administrator, said in a statement.

But to consumer advocates, the data is only the latest example of governments and companies having too much access to private information. Once gathered, they say, the data can be used against car owners, to find fault in accidents or in criminal investigations.

“These cars are equipped with computers that collect massive amounts of data,” said Khaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based consumer group. “Without protections, it can lead to all kinds of abuse.”

In Murray’s case, a court order was not required to release the data to investigators. Massachusetts is not among the states to pass a law governing access to the data. Asked about the case, Murray, who did not contest the ticket and who resigned as lieutenant governor in June to become head of the Chamber of Commerce in Worcester, Mass., declined to comment.

Current regulations require that the presence of the black box be disclosed in the owner’s manual. But the vast majority of drivers who do not read the manual thoroughly may not know that their vehicle can capture and record their speed, brake position, seat belt use and other data each time they get behind the wheel.

The origins of black boxes, which are the size of about two decks of cards and are situated under the center console, date to the 1990 model year, when General Motors introduced them to conduct quality studies. Since then, their use and the scope of the data they collect has expanded.

But privacy advocates have expressed concern that the data collected will only grow to include a wider time frame and other elements like GPS and location-based services.

Here is additional information from the American Association for Justice news release:

NBC Nightly News reported that “many drivers don’t know is that in most newer model cars today, a small recorder is keeping track of critical data, just in case of an accident.” NBC notes that the information is useful for police and insurance companies but that “privacy advocates worry about who is allowed access to that readout about what you are doing behind the wheel.” NBC recounts an incident where former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was involved in a crash and a black box showed that the version of events he originally gave to the media was incorrect. The NBC News report is also available here.

Driver’s License Applicants Can Now Donate to Texas Veterans Fund


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Texans can now donate to the Fund for Veterans’ Assistance when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses, the Texas Veterans Commission announced this week.

San Antonio Democratic Rep. Joe Farias sponsored the law that allowed for the change.

Texas Is Keeping Auto Inspections But Peeling Off The Stickers


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Photo credit: myfoxaustin.com

Texas drivers will have one minor annoyance  off our lists starting next March — we’ll still have to get auto inspections, but we’ll no longer have to put an inspection sticker on our windshields. That’s under a new law that was detailed in a recent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:

Texas drivers will enjoy a little better windshield view starting in March 2015 when safety inspections become tied to vehicle registration. Texas’ inspection sticker — a front-glass fixture for more than half a century — will go away in the process.

The inspection itself is still required. Vehicle owners will have to get one within 90 days before renewing their registration. They will have to provide proof the inspection was passed, just as they now provide proof of insurance.

The change will lead to millions fewer inspections from next March, when the new rule takes effect, to the end of the transition. So those in the business of conducting inspections stand to take a short-term loss — but not a big one.

The state stands to save $2 million by discontinuing the inspection stickers, which Texas has required since the 1950s. For decades, the safety inspection sticker rode the windshield solo. But that changed for some with the addition of the TollTag and for all Texans when registration stickers were moved from the rear license plate.

With toll roads spreading across the Dallas-Fort Worth area landscape, the three-sticker windshield has become commonplace. Drivers will save a little clutter.

The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors


Our law firm has seen a lot of situations in which consumers suffered damages, from minor to life-threatening, from improperly dispensed prescription medication. Some of the details of this problem were discussed in a recent article in Forbes. Here are excerpts:

Let’s say a physician writes a prescription for Colchicine and accidentally orders “10.0 mg,” when he should have ordered “1.0 mg.” That’s a tiny decimal error, a mistake even the best doctor could make. But it can be catastrophic for the patient. The higher dose could cause Colchicine poisoning, similar to arsenic poisoning: burning in the mouth and throat, excruciating abdominal pain. Internal organs would melt away and death would likely occur within 24 to 72 hours.

The ease with which even the best doctors can make gruesome errors is why hospitals set up elaborate systems to check and double check orders before drugs are given to patients. Some hospitals are better at this checking than others. Medication errors happen all the time, an estimated one million each year, contributing to 7,000 deaths. On average there is one medication error every day for every inpatient. Let’s take a closer look at what’s contributing to these preventable errors.

Hospitals Are In The Technological Dark Ages

According to recent research, the best known way for hospitals to protect patients from errors is by adopting technology called computerized physician order entry (CPOE). The physician (or other authorized prescriber) enters orders for a patient on a computer that contains patient information such as key lab values, clinical condition, allergies, etc. The computer checks the safety and appropriateness of the order and sends it electronically to the pharmacy. In the Colchicine example, a good CPOE system would alert the physician to the misplaced decimal in the order, and the best systems would prevent the order from being written in the first place. In my mind, one of the greatest advances of CPOE is that it eliminates the need for pharmacists to decipher physician handwriting. I’ve often wondered how they do that.

The research suggests errors decline by as much as 85 percent when hospitals implement CPOE, yet the pace of adoption in the hospital industry is agonizingly slow. To jump start progress, the federal government usedeconomic stimulus funds starting back in 2009 to incentivize hospital investment in CPOE and electronic medical records (EMRs). That improved the pace of change, but still, most hospitals are in the Dark Ages when compared to other industries like airlines or retail.

Three Ways To Fix The Problem

It is imperative that several things happen to protect consumers from medication errors. First, stakeholders must come together, lay out the best practices for implementing CPOE and make it available to all of the nation’s hospitals immediately. Today, many hospitals rely on their vendors for instruction and full implementation.  But vendors’ interests do not always make patient safety a top priority — that’s the job of the hospital. Hospitals need more tools and collaboration to successfully adopt this technology.

Second, taxpayer money invested in health care should hold hospitals accountable for preserving the safety of patients. This sounds so obvious it hardly needs to be stated, except, well, it needs to be stated – because it’s not the case today. Despite our repeated pleadings and those of our purchaser members, the administration’s current criteria for paying hospitals to install CPOE doesn’t require the hospitals to test and monitor the safety of their CPOE systems. This is a mind-boggling oversight, suggesting it is more important to your government that hospitals have whizz bang technology than prove the technology actually works for the patient.

The giant federal agency that funds Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), will tie some of its payments to hospitals to their safety record — which is a good thing, required by ObamaCare. But, as purchaser and consumer advocates complained in a letter to CMS, there is no plan to include medication errors in the criteria for determining how safe hospitals are. This makes little sense, since medication errors are far and away the most common errors hospitals make.

Finally, employers and other purchasers should favor hospitals that have a monitored CPOE system. That means they should tilt toward these hospitals in benefits design and contracting. In addition to the harm done to your employees when CPOE systems are not in place or are deployed badly, errors are also costly to purchasers. And it’s purchasers — not hospitals — that pay most of the price tag for those errors. Purchasers can actually estimate how much they are paying for the privilege of harming employees using the free tool available here.

The Real Reason Hospitals Don’t Invest In The Right Technology

The fact that hospitals can usually pass the cost of errors to purchasers is precisely the reason adoption of CPOE stalls. Hospitals are much speedier and technologically savvy when their profits are threatened.

In fairness, hospitals respond to health care financing incentives from the government, as well as the private sector, and those incentives rarely reward hospitals for doing the right thing. To their immense credit, many hospitals competently deploy CPOE and electronic health records (EHRs) whatever the financial benefit. Next it is up to us — as citizens, patients and payers — to focus our attention and our market power on those hospitals, the ones that put their patients’ health and well-being first.

GM Makes 48th Recall for Trucks and SUVs That Switch Into Neutral Unexpectedly


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The New York Times reports that General Motors announced “more than half a million more vehicles” were being recalled Friday. GM has now recalled over 20 million vehicles, which already comes close to the 22 million that all the world’s automakers, combined, recalled last year. On top of that, GM’s repair costs are rising, too, with the company having “set aside $2 billion for repairs through the second quarter, which ends on Monday” and does not account for the cars recalled yesterday. This new recall “includes 392,459 full-size pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States, 53,607 in Canada and almost 21,000 sold elsewhere,” which all use four-wheel drive systems that can “switch into neutral without any action by the driver.” NHTSA’s website has already received some complaints related to these issues, according to the article.

The AP reports that the problem is related to “a software glitch” in the 2014 and 2015 models. Besides a loss of power to the wheels during normal driving, the issue “can let the trucks roll away if parked.” So far, GM has not reported any injuries associated with the defect. The article also mentions the problems with ignitions switches currently under investigation by Congress, NHTSA, and the Justice Department, as well as GM’s fine paid to NHTSA and NHTSA documents posted online last Thursday “showing that GM would recall about 29,000 Chevy Cruze compacts in the U.S. for an air bag problem.”

The Detroit Free Press reports, the recalls affect some of “the company’s best-selling and most profitable vehicles, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs.” GM has made 48 vehicle recalls this year, as of Friday.

Bloomberg News reports that this week GM also announced that it would be giving paperwork to NHTSA related too the air bag issue, which involved “modules supplied by Japan’s Takata Corp.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that GM spokesperson Jim Cain reiterated the company’s commitment to conducting a full investigation into whether the company’s policy or internal organization contributed to the recalls and vehicle defects. The company’s CEO Mary Barra stated a week ago that she believed the recalls would be over with by July.

WDIV-TV Detroit reported online that the new recall alone affects “428,211 vehicles in the United States.”

The website Kiplinger reports with information related to the string of General Motors automobile recalls, as well as how “high-profile cases obscure the fact that nearly every major automaker has issued recalls.” Still, the article notes that NHTSA’s “more proactive safety stance in recent years may be increasing the number of recalls as well,” as NHTSA now requires automakers to give the agency notice of “consumer complaints more quickly than in the past.”

Feinberg to announce details of victims compensation fund Monday. Bloomberg News reports that the person hired by Barra to setting up the legal fund to compensate people affected by GM’s ignition switch defect, Kenneth Feinberg, “is expected to offer payments to all drivers, passengers and bystanders killed or hurt in collisions” associated with the problem. Feinberg is expected to announce more on Monday, but victims attorney Bob Hilliard contends, “Feinberg wants to settle all eligible claims” with the uncapped fund.

The Washington Post reported in its “Wonkblog” blog that this “could turn out to be one of Feinberg’s toughest jobs yet.” Nevertheless, Hilliard says that his “hope is that Ken Feinberg’s marching orders from GM are to err on the side of liberal awards, given the fact pattern here,” a reference to the revelation that GM was aware about the ignition switch issue for over 10 years.

Lawsuit forced GM’s hand in air bag recall. Reuters reports with more information about the air-bag-related recalls, involving air bags manufactured by Takata Corp, saying that legal action filed in April by Georgia resident Brandi Owens after an accident she had that left her blind in one eye is what prompted GM to recall 33,000 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles. Reuters notes that GM’s papers filed with NHTSA related to the air bag recalls did not say anything about Owens’ suit but adds that NHTSA was aware of GM’s effort to replace the air bags on the driver’s side in order to adjust for the Takata defect, related to incorrect parts.

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.