Watch Out Memorial Day Weekend Drivers! Texas Police Abuse a Little-Known Traffic Law to Trap Motorists

It is Memorial Day weekend.  You are going to the lake or to visit family or friends. You are not a novice driver.  You have been around for quite a while and you know the traffic laws. You try to avoid traffic tickets by staying close to the limits of speed and safety.

You also know that some towns along multi-lane highways are known as “speed traps.”  The usual speed limit is 60 – 70 MPH; the speed limit drops by 10 – 15 MPH at the city limits.  The local police sit there and write ticket after ticket when motorists miss the sign.  Most drivers know this; radar guns only snare the unwary.

But what about this sneaky trick:  Ticket drivers going at or below the posted limit, who do not know the specifics of one Texas law.

  • You are driving on a tollway with a posted speed limit of 80 miles per hour;
  • Up ahead, you see a police car pulled completely off the side of the highway;
  • You notice there is no accident or car pulled over;
  • You wonder why they have all their lights flashing;
  • You slow down to the speed limit or below as you pass the police car;
  • Suddenly the police car pulls out behind you and makes you pull over.
  • You get a $100+ ticket for a traffic law you never knew about.

I never knew the specifics of this law, but I intuitively moved over to the next lane when passing a police traffic stop, accident, or other mishap, and slowed to the speed limit when I was going faster.

The trap is when you STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE.  That’s right, the rules for passing an authorized emergency vehicle with lights flashing require you to move to the next lane to the left, or slow to 20 MPH below the posted speed.

I have no problem with this law where and accident or traffic stop is in progress.  My problem is when there is no reason for the vehicle to be stopped there except to fine motorists.

Why would a police car be parked, flashing lights on, beside the road, with a radar gun pointed out the window?  If this were incidental, don’t you think the officer would issue a warning to an unsuspecting driver going the speed limit or slightly below?  The real reason appears to be money.

To me this is a scurrilous abuse of power.  Until or unless this is remedied, do not fall into the trap.

FYI:  Texas Transportation Code § 545.157.

(a) This section applies only to the following vehicles:

(1) a stationary authorized emergency vehicle using visual signals that meet the requirements of Sections 547.305 and 547.702;(

2) a stationary tow truck using equipment authorized by Section 547.305(d); and

(3) a Texas Department of Transportation vehicle not separated from the roadway by a traffic control channelizing device and using visual signals that comply with the standards and specifications adopted under Section 547.105.

(b) On approaching a vehicle described by Subsection (a), an operator, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall:

(1) vacate the lane closest to the vehicle when driving on a highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the vehicle; or

(2) slow to a speed not to exceed:

(A) 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or more; or

(B) five miles per hour when the posted speed limit is less than 25 miles per hour.

(c) A violation of this section is:

(1) a misdemeanor punishable under Section 542.401;

(2) a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 if the violation results in property damage; or

(3) a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily injury.

(d) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code or the Penal Code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or under both sections.

(e) In this section:

(1) “Tow truck” means a vehicle that:

(A) has been issued a permit under Subchapter C, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code; and

(B) is operated by a person licensed under Subchapter D, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code.

(2) “Traffic control channelizing device” means equipment used to warn and alert drivers of conditions created by work activities in or near the traveled way, to protect workers in a temporary traffic control zone, and to guide drivers and pedestrians safely.  The term includes a traffic cone, tubular marker, vertical panel, drum, barricade, temporary raised island, concrete or cable barrier, guardrail, or channelizer.

Available Care Act – Beyond “Coverage”

Much talk about insuring people for healthcare needs.  The giant bedpan in the room is availability.  What good is having Medicare, Medicaid, exchange plans, if you cannot find a doctor for hundreds of miles who will accept your provider’s coverage?  Just look.

The pundits talk about providing millions of people “access” to healthcare; however, they cannot explain why many of the “covered” still do what they did when they had no insurance, go the emergency room of the public hospital known to be the one that cannot turn them down.

Health insurers specify what they will cover and what the insured must pay, in terms of dollars and percentages.  What they do not spell out, is the amounts they are willing to pay the doctors and hospitals for various treatments.  The doctors and hospitals that are willing to accept the insurer’s terms are added to a “network.”  If the insured uses these doctors and hospitals, “in network,” the patient pays less; “out-of-network” providers, the insured pays much more.

Medicare, and the related private insurance plans are shunned by many healthcare providers because of the intense complexity of coding rules, poorer reimbursement rates, and 6-month slow-pay of claims.  I cannot blame them for wanting the easiest, most profitable patients, but look at what that does to retirees:  it shoves them into the offices of the newest, least experienced doctors, who do not have privileges at the best hospitals.

Another specious barrier doctors erect is “not accepting new patients.”  If that is true, why do they prominently promote their doctors, facilities, and services?  Why do they list the insurance plans they accept, on fancy websites?  What do they do when patients get well, move, change, outgrow their need, or die?  Who takes their places?  Are there waiting lists?  This policy seems wildly inconsistent, and dubious to me.

Today’s labyrinth of laws, maze of insurance coverages, intricacies of medical practice, incorporation of hospitals, vast array of medical devices, tests, and procedures, and incomprehensible myriads of drugs and medicines, are the starting point of future choices.  The concept of choosing your doctors, clinics, and hospitals still appeals to me.  If all health insurance policies must meet some minimum standards of coverage, why should health providers exclude any of them?

We have a historic opportunity to put features into the fabric of healthcare; the federal government has more incentives and flexibility to “get it right” as they formulate new laws.  Why not pass a new law called “The Available Care Act?”  If you accept anything except cash for medical services or goods, you accept the coverage of any patient who walks in your door.

 

“Day Without Immigrants?” – How About “Day Without Illegal Aliens”

Mainstream mislabeling of non-Americans, who are neither registered resident aliens nor naturalized citizens, as “immigrants” is a political victory for the media, and open-borders advocates.  Substitution of terms, and collapse of meaning is called “conflation;”it is pervasive; even those who advocate legal control of our borders have adopted the “alt-lit” use of “immigrant” where “illegal alien” or “unregistered foreign national” is accurate.

This national protest is designed to show the importance of immigrants and their descendants to America.  No protest is required.  Just get the words straight, and you have a clear picture of who we are talking about.  Any hyphenated American is still an American.  “Green Card” and valid visa holders are welcome visitors.  Subtract these people from the “Day Without Immigrants” activities and see who is left.

America is still a most attractive country in many respects.  I understand why foreign nationals want to live here, it is vast, varied, wonderful, free, and full of opportunities.  We have borders, and citizenship laws, like every country in the world.

What we do not have is a guest worker visa program large enough to accommodate our labor needs.  This is evident because over 11 million people are living here without the benefit of such visas. Employers hire them to do the jobs they need done.

If all the energy, time, and money spent for these demonstrations were applied to getting Congress to authorize and expansive guest worker program, most of the illegal aliens could be legalized and have the benefits of official recognition and legal protection.

Children Threatened in Public School Classrooms – Federal Laws Deny Them Protection from Disruption

Civilized societies set behavioral norms, and prescribe consequences for violating those norms.  For example, it is not okay to harm another person without cause; it is not alright to harass someone, or “disturb the peace.”  Families can set broader boundaries inside their homes, but not in public.  However, sadly misguided federal laws and rules subject public school children and their teachers to violent, threatening, disturbing, unpredictable, disruptive behavior every day, in the name of “equal education.”  This violates common sense and the rights of the other children to a peaceful education.

In the so-called “real world” normal people do not put up with violent or disruptive people.  The disruptive person is usually fired from a job in a work environment, ejected or arrested in social or public environments.  Medical treatment is indicated, to the extent emotional disabilities or mental illness are involved; punishment and fines are indicated otherwise.  In other words, society separates or isolates disturbed citizens and insulates normal citizens from their disruptions.

I do not know any normal, emotionally healthy people who are made to endure the disturbances of disruptive adults.  Why do we subject our children and public school teachers to behavior normal society does not allow?  Most teachers are not trained psychologists, and none of the students are trained to accept and deal with such frightening, threatening behavior either.  Even if they were, there is no excuse for making public school so trying, and perhaps harmful.

 The current federal laws paint children with “disabilities” and public schools with a broad brush when they require inclusion and mainstreaming without stipulation.  Do they think normal classrooms are therapy for violent and disturbed students?  Do they think the distress and disruption help normal students learn?  Disturbed, violent, and disabled students need added, special resources and treatment that normal students do not.  Why subject the whole class to special efforts that scare them, delay normal learning and deny them the knowledge they are present to obtain?

Special needs children deserve to be taught the same knowledge as other kids.  Many special needs children are not disruptive.  However, their special needs may require different teaching approaches and intensive, trained, instruction to attain that knowledge.

The advocates of “mainstreaming” tout the marginal benefits to special needs students, but blithely avoid discussion of the serious detriment to “mainstream” students and the teachers that must cope with the stress and interference required to produce those benefits.  This attempt at social engineering is so obviously lame, it cannot stand a reality check.  Does anyone remember when even whispering in class, and passing notes were punishable infractions?  They were infractions because they distracted students and teachers from the purpose of the class.  Has this idea expired from political correctness?

If the needs of the few can be met without expense to the many, I say, so be it.  Find another way to fulfill the needs of violent, threatening, and disruptive students.

Obamacare 6.7 Million Employees Lose Health Insurance

Yes, as I wrote in my August 31, 2016 article “Middle-Class Families Robbed by Obamacare – Before and After Taxes,” Obamacare has seen employers drop health insurance benefits for employees (6.6 million in 2014).

The administration boasts an increase of 9.5 million using the new exchanges in 2014.  Heritage.org provided this diagram of changes in health insurance coverage for 2014.  It shows that of 9 of the 9.25 million people newly covered were enrolled in expanded Medicaid.

It also shows the decrease in 6.7 million employer provided health insurance and 4.8 million increase in individual insurance.  Apparently 2.1 million self-insured (private pay, no insurance).

Employers stopped health insurance for 6.7 million employees after Obamacare came into effect.  The premiums paid by the employer for those insurance benefits were not taxed to the employees.

Often, those employers did not increase the paychecks of employees, they just pocketed the money.   The employees got a pay cut equal to the premiums.  The employees bought new coverage through the exchanges with after-tax dollars, probably for higher premiums than the employer paid.  But, even if the employee could buy equivalent coverage for the same premium, the employees lose.

Example:

Mary Smith earns $4,000 per month (taxable) and health benefits of $1,000 per month (not taxable).

Employer health insurance $1,000.  Equivalent individual coverage $1,400.

In the first example, Mary has $1,400 less per month, $16,800 per year.  The employer gains $1,000 per month, $12,000 per you.

In the second example, Mary has $615 less per month, $7,380 per year.  The employer loses $65 per month, $780 per year.

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Not Increase Salary to Offset

Obamacare

Employee Compensation

Before After Change
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Income tax withholding 15%    600    600 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,140 0
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 1,740 -1,400
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Health Insurance 1,000 0 +1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 4,260 +1,000

 

 

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Increase Salary to Offset

 

Obamacare
Employee Compensation Before After Change
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Income tax withholding 15%    600 750 -150
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,925 +785
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 2,525 -615
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Health Insurance 1,000 0 -1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 5,325 -65

 

 

 

 

The Fight for Eyes

Political parties beware: the 2016 presidential election could stimulate American fact-checking and critical thinking – or not.  Why?  Could It be, we are awake and paying attention?  Could it be, we just want to be “right?”  Could it be, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”?

In 2016, American information media reflect our mindsets.

  • We have boundless channels of 24/7 content battling for “eyes,” and “market share.”
  • We are so numb, it takes lurid, “mind bites” of “shocking facts” to get our attention.
  • Our jaded, fickle brains are addicted to “breaking news and “editorial reporting.”

Then comes the election.  How do we decide?  The battle lines are drawn.  The news media have abandoned objective balance in the fray.

It is natural for people with strong political bias to seek news sources that support their current views, and to ignore, avoid, or distain sources that reflect contrary, or impartial thinking.

Lord knows, we have enough choices (e.g. newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, social media).  Which do we choose: “bread and circuses,” or brains?  Do we swallow our favorite- flavored propaganda, or chew on the tough, tasteless truth?

Seven questions we can ask about what we call “news:”

  • Which sources provide complete, unbiased information and analysis?
  • Which sources provide incomplete, biased information and editorials?
  • Can we discern where information stops and persuasion starts?
  • Did we get all the information we need to understand?
  • Do we know enough to understand the context and importance of the information?
  • Do we have enough sources to verify or complete the information?
  • Do we care?

Few of the major news organizations remain credibly neutral or balanced.  Here are 10 news sources accepted as trustworthy by people across the political spectrum.

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. The Economist
  3. BBC
  4. Google News
  5. The Guardian
  6. Associated Press
  7. Reuters
  8. C-SPAN
  9. ABC
  10. USA Today

Here is an informative graphic from    showing the political positions of the various major news outlets.

news politics

Good thinking everyone.

Doctors & Hospitals Reject Pre-existing Fedicare

Health care providers are rejecting people with Obamacare policies, Medicare, and Medicaid because of reimbursement rates, and the financial inabilities of Obamacare patients to pay their share.

Context

Insurance spreads large financial risks over a pool of people who face that risk.  Only some of the people will actually experience the losses.  Members of the pool pay “premiums” to pay the losses, administer the process, and provide a profit to the owners of the insurance company.

Insurance companies use “underwriters” to:

  • Measure the potential financial risks of issuing policies
  • Set the conditions included and excluded
  • Set the premiums and duration of coverage

The idea is to:

  • Keep premiums low for normal risk people
  • Set higher premiums for people with higher risks
  • Limit coverage for conditions that already exist
  • Decline people who are high risk

Obamacare Reality

Obamacare health insurance plans cannot decline people with pre-existing conditions, by law.  The medical costs are not a risk for these people, they are an enormous, financial certainty.  These high costs must be covered by premiums paid by other insured policy holders, or absorbed by the insurance company.

Obamacare prohibits “marketplace” insurers from rejecting high-risk applicants, and people with preexisting conditions.  However, not all policies are created equal.  The variables are:

  • Premiums
  • Government premium subsidies
  • Patient co-payments
  • Patient and family deductibles
  • Reimbursement rates (the amounts insurers pay the doctors, laboratories, imaging clinics, and hospitals)

Service providers need to get paid an acceptable amount, in an acceptable amount of time.  Insurers offer reimbursement levels, but providers do not have to accept them.  Providers can set the minimum for their services, but the insurers do not have to include them in their “network.”

The medical community now does what insurance companies used to do – when in doubt, decline Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid patients.

The top quality insurance companies are withdrawing from the marketplaces to avoid the losses they experience from the pre-existing condition patients.  The insurers are limiting the types of plans to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s) which only use selected providers.  They are eliminating Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO’s) which give the insured choices of providers within a selected “Network,” and “Out of Network” for higher copays.

People are dropping their health insurance because the combined costs of premiums, co-pays, deductibles; the lack of providers who accept their insurance contributes to this attrition.