FORT WORTH -- The Texas Transportation Commission voted Thursday to remove from standardized accident forms the phone numbers of people involved in accidents, making it harder for lawyers and medical providers to solicit business from crash victims using telemarketing firms.
The commission, meeting at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, voted to make the policy change starting Jan. 1. The commission holds its monthly meetings outside of Austin several times a year.
"Telemarketing is not about the health of crash victims. It's about making money," Insurance Council of Texas spokesman Mark Hanna told commissioners. "Solicitation has been a scam that has been allowed to grow and fester. Leave the crash victims alone."
Decisions about what appears on accident reports are made by the Transportation Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Public safety employees fill out the forms, and the Transportation Department keeps the records.
Initially, DPS officials decided that removing the phone numbers from the forms was a good idea and did so independently. Then a Texas chiropractor sued, saying the agency couldn’t remove the data without a public hearing.
But this year, DPS appeared to do an about-face and determined that including the numbers has law enforcement value. DPS officials asked the Transportation Department to concur and take the formal step of voting to keep the blank space in place for phone numbers.
But Transportation Commission members balked at that idea in September, saying they'd rather take the formal step of removing the space from the forms.
"Why give a phone number out? What an invasion of privacy," commission member Ted Houghton of El Paso said after Thursday’s meeting.
DPS dropped its support for keeping the phone numbers, saying investigators have other ways to get in touch with people after accidents.
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