Letters to the editor

Winter Park has experienced several traffic related deaths that may have been attributed to distracted driving.

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  • | 10:18 a.m. February 29, 2012
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Campaign to educate area drivers about distracted driving

The Winter Park Police Department has recently begun a traffic safety campaign to help educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving. This initiative will focus on educational efforts to bring attention to the elements of distracted driving, prevention and the consequences of not practicing safe driving techniques. An enforcement campaign is also underway to prevent distracted driving related traffic crashes. The Winter Park Police Department’s goal with this campaign is simple: save lives by getting drivers to remember that distracted driving can kill.

You are 23 times more likely to have an accident while driving distracted. Unfortunately, Winter Park has experienced several traffic related deaths that may have been attributed to distracted driving and in a recent study conducted by the Winter Park Police Department, 20 percent of all drivers on Winter Park roadways were driving while distracted. In 2009 alone, nearly 5,500 people were killed and a half million more injured nationwide in distracted driving crashes. That same year, 20 percent of injury crashes involved reports of distracted driving. 

We all know that driving while distracted is dangerous, but that doesn’t stop most people from continuing to do it. This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use and other distractions while driving. We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families and others on the road.

Every driver in the city of Winter Park has a role in this effort. However, we especially want to reach out to parents with teen drivers because we know that statistically, the under-20 age group has had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes. The Winter Park Police Department is currently working with the Winter Park High School to get out the word to our youngest drivers.

There are three types of distractions: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) and cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing). Distractions can include but are not limited to texting, using a cell/smart phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, loud music, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, and/or watching a video. “One text or call could wreck it all.”

—Randy Durkee

Lieutenant, Special Operations

Winter Park Police Department

Florida's doctor shortage will blunt health reform's effect

The new health reform law is expected to create 32 million more insured Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The federal government plans to expand Medicaid to low-income adults and subsidize purchases on health-insurance exchanges when it requires most Americans to carry insurance in 2014.

However, an insurance card will not mean much to patients without providers to care for them.

Florida will have more than 2.2 million more insured residents because of this reform, according to an Urban Institute analysis.

A primary-care physician is the first contact for people with undiagnosed illnesses. They include family physicians, pediatricians and internal-medicine doctors. Primary-care physicians' share of the U.S. healthcare dollar is only 7 cents. However, primary-care doctors control 80 cents of the healthcare dollar by sending their patients to hospitals, referring them to specialists and handing out prescriptions.

The U.S. has about the same number of physicians per capita as other industrialized nations, however, the U.S. has far fewer primary-care physicians than specialists. They make up about 50 percent of the physician workforce in most other developed nations, compared with 35 percent in the U.S.

The number of U.S. specialists per capita has risen dramatically since 1965, while the ratio of primary-care physicians has remained relatively constant, because specialists earn as much as three times more income. The outlook is for more of the same: greater scarcity of primary care and a growing supply of specialists.

Massachusetts reformed its state healthcare system in 2006, giving the nation a glimpse of what is to come when access to health insurance is expanded without expanding the supply of primary care. The average wait for a non-urgent appointment with an internist rose from 17 days in 2005, to 48 days in 2011. Less than half of family physicians there are accepting new patients, compared with 70 percent four years ago.

Massachusetts has about 108 primary-care physicians for every 100,000 residents, compared with only about 78 per 100,000 in Florida. This ultimately suggests an even longer wait locally.

The primary-care workload is expected to increase by nearly 30 percent between 2005 and 2025. A number of factors feed this demand, including a growing population, a flood of baby boomers becoming Medicare beneficiaries and acquiring medical conditions as they age, and the newly insured because of the reform law.

However, the supply of primary-care physicians is expected to rise by only two, to 7 percent. Three out of four physicians say they already are at or over capacity. The math screams that there will be a crisis of healthcare access in the next 15 years. Expect longer waits for appointments, shorter physician visits, greater use of non-physicians for routine care and higher prices. The U.S. trains about 16,000 doctors a year. The nation would have to increase that number by 6,000 to 8,000 annually for 20 years to meet expected demand. Adding to the sense of urgency is the fact that about one out of four Florida physicians is age 60 or older.

About 15 percent of Florida residents currently live in federally designated primary-care shortage areas. Physicians tend to cluster in areas where supply is already high rather than where the need is greatest. About 80 percent of new physicians in the 1980s and 1990s did this. They like affluent areas with well-insured patients, high-tech hospitals and civic amenities that offer a better quality of life. These high-income enclaves are also home to the nation's healthiest people.

Most do not want to recognize that health care is rationed. It is done so by lack of insurance. Health reform is expected to rectify that, but it will exacerbate a new form of rationing: the doctor is not in. 

—Steve Jacob

Author Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us

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