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Houston Legal Blog

Study: half of parents talk on phone with their kids in the car

There is nothing and no one more important to a parent than their child – unless, perhaps, it’s their phone. According to new research, about half of parents of children ages 4 to 10 talked on their phone while driving with their children in the vehicle. The study also found that about one in three parents reads text messages with kids in the car and approximately one in seven uses social media.

It should go without saying that these activities are dangerous and far too often result in motor vehicle wrecks and injuries.

Texas continues campaign against distracted driving

If you drive north of Houston for about four hours, you will come to Richardson. The comfortable Dallas suburb is the hometown of Jensen Ackles, star of the CW's "Supernatural" series. The actor recently teamed up with the Texas Department of Transportation to shoot a public service announcement about the dangers of distracted driving.

As you know, nearly a year ago, Texas toughened up its effort to reduce distracted driving and the accidents and injuries it causes. It is now illegal to text and drive.

Forty-eight in Texas arrested on Medicare fraud charges

On its website, the federal government’s Department of Justice recently announced that it arrested 601 people in 58 federal districts across the nation as part of its Medicare Fraud Takedown. Among those who have been taken into custody were 76 doctors who face charges related to the “prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics,” the DOJ stated.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the operation includes 48 people in the Southern District of Texas who have been charged with falsely billing Medicare for almost $300 million in medical expenses.

Most dangerous distracted drivers of all: Truckers

Regular readers of our Houston legal blog know that we often focus in this space on the dangers to motorists of distracted driving. By now, everyone should understand how risky it is to the driver, passengers and everyone on the road to pay more attention to an electronic device than the traffic.

Understandably, the dangers rise dramatically when a distracted driver is behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put in place a number of regulations designed to keep truckers focused on their large vehicles rather than phones, infotainment systems, GPS and other electronic gadgets that often have prominent places in the cabs of today’s commercial vehicles. The FMCSA’s goal is to reduce the number of 18-wheeler crashes that cause injuries and deaths.

Infotainment systems driving new-car owners to distraction

It’s not the handling, braking or the way the paint job looks at night. It’s not the rims or storage space or the amount of room available for knees in the back seat. No, the feature that aggravates and frustrates new-car owners more than any other is the infotainment system.

In fact, infotainment systems are “the biggest negative in the first 90 days of ownership,” according to a recent article in a Texas newspaper. The systems are increasingly complex, but left unsaid is that the systems are more and more often a distraction for drivers, too often leading to motor vehicle accidents and injuries.

Study: drugged driving up, drunk driving down

Here in Houston, we have repeatedly seen local news reports about the violence and tragedy that are generated by drivers who are high on drugs. According to a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, drugs are being detected more and more in drivers who cause crashes that take lives.

According to the GHSA research, about 44 percent of tests on drivers who died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016 showed that they had drugs in their systems – up from 28 percent just a decade earlier.

Beware the real signs of drowning

When most people hear the word "drowning," they likely envision the television trope of someone furiously splashing around, screaming for help and thrashing in the water. A heroic lifeguard may race to the scene, throwing a buoy to the struggling swimmer, then hauling him or her back to the shore. Aid is rendered, the near-drowning victim vomits up massive amounts of swallowed water, and everything turns out fine in time for a commercial break.

In reality, however, drowning very rarely looks like this stereotype. Drowning is often deceptively quiet and unassuming. A struggling swimmer is definitely undergoing what is known as "aquatic distress," but that person can most often still aid in his or her rescue and can call out or wave for help. Someone actively drowning most likely can't do either of those things.

Wrong-way Houston driver crashes, causing critical injuries

Just west of downtown Houston on an elevated portion of Interstate 45, Jim Carroll saw a wrong-way vehicle speeding toward him. Fortunately, as his dashcam video shows, he was able to swerve and avoid the wrong-way car and its 28-year-old driver.

"I could have been hit,” Carroll said after the near early-morning miss, “but by the grace of God, I didn't." Others were not as fortunate. The wrong way-driver slammed into one car head-on and clipped another on I-45. Houston law enforcement said a 67-year-old man suffered critical injuries in the violent crash.

Report: Uber’s self-driving SUV saw woman before it killed her

Regular readers of our Houston legal blog will recall the headlines made in March when an Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman walking with her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona. Federal investigators of the pedestrian accident have released a preliminary report that helps clarify facts of the deadly crash.

A news article about the report says the National Transportation Safety Board makes a couple of points clearly: 1. It’s very difficult to engineer and program a car to drive itself. Secondly, every developer of autonomous vehicles that is relying on human monitors as it tests its systems should be very, very careful about their system’s design.

Texas doctor accused of big role in $240 million health care fraud

It’s a long, hot drive from Houston down to Mission, Texas. Once a sleepy border town about 350 miles southwest of us, Mission is now a booming city of 80,000 and growing.

In a recent court hearing there, a doctor pleaded not guilty to federal white collar crimes that include health care fraud and money laundering. The 61-year-old is accused of misdiagnosing patients so that he could administer to them costly drugs at government expense.