It is now illegal to view, send or text message while driving your car in Austin. This new ban on texting is not limited to school zones, it applies anywhere within the City. The ordinance excludes police, fire and paramedics on the job using a wireless communication device. It also excludes drivers who are stopped at a traffic light. This new ordinance banning driving while texting was initially supposed to take effect in November, but council members delayed it until January 2, 2010. Each violation will be a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and can be appealed in municipal court.
In addition, the Austin City Council approved several other traffic ordinances:
•· The city council also passed a resolution blocking police officers from drawing blood of drunk driving suspects. The measure requires technicians to draw the suspect’s blood in a public health setting and with emergency services immediately available.
•· The council also adopted an ordinance that requires motorists to give 3 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist or other so called vulnerable road users. They include runners, pedestrians or people in wheelchairs. For heavy duty trucks and commercial vehicles the distance is 6 feet. The ordinance takes effect in November.
A woman who was trying to cross the street at Robert B Cullum Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue near Fair Park was struck by a pickup truck. Witnesses told officers the driver of the truck had stopped and checked on the woman, but drove away from the scene. Officers followed the male driver, but he fled about 10 blocks before crashing. His truck knocked down an electrical pole, struck a parked van and overturned in a field. Officers took the man into custody. Police said he will likely be charged with evading arrest and failure to stop and render aid.
If you have been injured in an hit and run accident or by an uninsured motorist, you may still be able to get an insurance company to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages if you have Uninsured Underinsured Motorist Coverage (sometimes referred to as UM/UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy). Contact Rachel Montes at (214) 522-9401 to get a free case evaluation today, and visit our website at www.MontesLawGroup.com to learn more about our firm.
Notifications to 23 employees in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington as well as at MADD’s national headquarters in Irving are expected this week. MADD started the year with 397 employees nationwide. Since then it has eliminated 55 staff positions, or nearly 14 percent of its work force.
Private donations, government grants and corporate sponsorships to MADD National dropped between 15 percent and 20 percent to $43 million last year, said MADD National Chief Operating Officer Debbie Weir. Weir said the current economy has made it especially difficult to raise money for MADD, especially in states with high unemployment rates. “Donors really have to look at their disposable income and as a result, giving is less.”
Weir said that MADD will continue to serve people in all 50 states regardless of whether states have paid employees. Volunteers will pick up the slack in the affected states, helping to push an agenda that includes targeting underage drinking and stronger seat belt laws, she said.
MADD celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. Last year, MADD provided grief counseling, court counseling and financial counseling to more than 55,000 people and their families. With advocates in more than 300 communities, MADD lobbies against drinking and driving to save lives. It helped persuade Congress to raise the drinking age to 21 and helped reduce the number of traffic fatalities attributed to drunken driving. It also claims to have helped save more than 300,000 lives.
We would like to encourage people to donate to MADD as there is no doubt that MADD has helped to save lives and to bring attention to the problem of drinking and driving all across America.
A purse thief was arrested in Fort Worth after he offered to sell gas at half-price to undercover police officers. Police say that the man had used credit cards that were stolen from an elderly woman to purchase the gas. The suspect made the half-price offer to two undercover narcotics detectives who happened to be filling up their unmarked car, police said.
The credit cards were stolen from Erma Mathis (73) of Arlington while she was shopping at her neighborhood grocery store. She believes that her purse was stolen from her grocery cart as she was shopping.
Shortly thereafter, at a gas station on East Lancaster Street, two Fort Worth narcotics officers in plain clothes were filling up their car, when Michael Hall (25) made an unusual offer: Gas for half-price. “We were like, ‘What do you mean?'” the officer said. “He was like, ‘Pull up behind the car. Half-priced gas!'”
Michael Hall was arrested and found to be in possession of Mrs. Mathis’ credit card and driver’s license, police said. He faces a charge of credit card abuse, but her purse and glasses are still missing. She said she assumes the thief threw the items away before he was arrested.
Sgt. Chad Mahaffey of the Fort Worth police department praised the undercover police officers for the arrest. The identity of the officers has not been released since they are undercover, but we hope they are recognized by the department for their quick thinking efforts.
Dallas bicyclists be warned, effective immediately, the Dallas Police Department has been advised by the City Attorney to issue tickets to bicycle riders who are not wearing a helmet. Those tickets carry a fine up to $200.00 per ticket. This directive is a reversal of a June, 2009 directive from the city attorney that had ordered officers not to enforcing the law to avoid potential lawsuits.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the Texas Medical Board has not followed up on its promise to get tough and to discipline doctors who engage in misconduct. According to the article, the Texas Medical Board is more focused on protecting doctors than the public. The article claims that 85 percent of the Board’s investigations led to no sanctions at all, and the number of private deal-cutting meetings – the typical generator of lower-level penalties – more than quadrupled from seven years ago. The News also reported that of the 131 doctors were disciplined at the meeting. Only two had their licenses revoked, and then only because they quit contesting the cases against them. A handful of others were suspended or surrendered their licenses rather than fight. “We’re not really in the business of jerking licenses,” said Dr. Lee Anderson, a Fort Worth ophthalmologist. “Our primary purpose in the disciplinary process is remediation.”
The importance of a Texas Medical Board that takes its business of disciplining doctors who engage in misconduct is critical. Texas is “a favorable location to practice medicine” because of a relatively strong economy and because the law in Texas imposes a cap on malpractice awards against medical providers which has discouraged patients from bring valid claims against medical providers who injure their patients through their negligence or gross negligence. Because of the limitations on damage awards in malpractice cases patients who previously filed malpractice suits are no longer able to find lawyers who are willing to file a lawsuit on a medical malpractice case, and now their only chance of holding the doctor accountable and protecting future patients from similar harm is by filing a complaint with the Texas Medical Board. According to the article, such complaints are up 35% compared to the time period prior to the imposition of the caps on damage awards.
In addition, the article pointed out that the process itself which is largely controlled by doctors and which is confidential calls into question its motives. By law, 12 of its 19 members are doctors. In addition, the process lacks transparency that the public needs from the Board to engender trust in its deciesions. Doctors have managed to enact laws that make the process secret. As a result, the public has no way of determining why the Board did not impose more significant disciplinary measures. Virtually all complaint and investigation records are confidential. Penalties generally are worked out privately and even Agreed orders do not reference patient names which makes the incidents more difficult to investigate by the general public. In addition, even when discipline is taken against a doctor, the patient involved in not notified of the discipline unless the patient filed a complaint.
The article cited several specific instances where the Board either imposed no penalty or what was presented as a slap on the hand despite the need to protect the public. The examples included:
•1) In August, the board announced decisions on four sex-related cases. Two involved doctors whom judges had already sentenced for crimes against children. Two involved psychiatrists found to have had affairs with adult patients – potentially sexual assault under Texas law, but they’ve not been charged. The child abusers were allowed to go on practicing medicine, though not with kids. The other two are working without restrictions.
•2) In August the Board also considered complaints against:
•a. Two doctors convicted of federal crimes. One of the federal convicts, was required to complete 22 hours of continuing medical education and must pass a test on legal issues;
•b. A neurosurgeon, Dr. Matthew J. Wills, who four times operated on the wrong body part four times whose punishment was requiring the neurosurgeon to complete 10 hours of continuing medical education. Dr. Wills now works as a neurosurgeon in Topeka, Kan., and according to the article, his boss called the sanction “over the top” and “a little bizarre.”
•c. A cardiologist found to have performed dozens of invasive procedures with little or no cause; and
•d. Seven physicians linked to a death including an ER doctor who was too drunk to intubate a patient – a patient who then died. That doctor must complete substance abuse therapy and submit to urine tests.
•e. The Board said it was uncommon for a sex offender to keep his medical license, in the case of Dr. Jeffrey Klem, a cardiologist who is on criminal probation after twice pleading guilty to injuring a child, in 2007 in Beaumont and in 2009 in Houston. Board records say the Beaumont plea was a response to “three allegations of unwanted sexual contact with a minor.” The board barred Klem from treating anyone younger than 21 for the next 15 years and required that he have a chaperone when treating adults. Dr. Klem must also consult with a psychiatrists, take a “professional boundaries” course and pay a $5,000 fine.
What does it take for the board to revoke a license? Consider the case of William Littlejohn, one of the two doctors who reached the end of the line in August. Dr Littlejohn ran a pain management and detoxification practice in Fort Worth but had been suspended since 2006, when the board deemed him “a continuing threat to the public health and welfare as a result of a mental condition.” Board records say Littlejohn provided a mentally ill woman with large amounts of painkillers and a gun. She nearly died of overdoses and invested more than $600,000 in an urgent care clinic the doctor was running, the records say. Littlejohn acknowledged providing the gun, saying that the woman needed it to protect herself against violent relatives. Only later, he said, did he realize she was bipolar.
As of the end of the fiscal year 2009, there are:
•· Approximately 48,000 practicing statewide
•· 820 doctors are on medical probation
•· 3,129 newly licensed doctors in 2009
•· 6,968 complaints received by Texas Medical Board in 2009
•· The board has initiated 2,873 investigations
•· 411 doctors disciplined
•· Only 10 licenses were revoked
•· 21 licenses surrendered in lieu of disciplinary proceedings
You can check to see if you doctor has a disciplinary history by viewing the Texas Medical Board’s Web site, http://www.tmb.state.tx.us/. Click “Check Your Doctor” in the blue bar on the left, then accept the usage terms and use the search form.
We encourage you to read the full article from the Dallas Morning News posted on October 11, 2009 as “Physician misconduct often tolerated by state medical board, analysis finds.”