Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where did all the MD license plates go?

When I was a child, it was commonplace to see cars with license plates indicating that the car belonged to a medical doctor. Where did they all go?

It isn't that they aren't still available to doctors who want them, e.g. here is the MA application form, complete with a picture of an MD license plate: Application for Medical Doctor (MD) Plates . So why have doctors reduced their use of this kind of signaling?

My guess is the answer has to do with changes in markets that changed the value of sending such a signal. Here are some conjectures:

Housecalls play a much smaller role in medical practice than they did when I was a child, and so the need for docs to park in odd places and rely on their plates to ward off parking tickets has decreased.

The reputational benefits of being a doctor have decreased.

Drug addicts started to break into cars with MD plates, looking for drugs to use or sell.

Feel free to leave other conjectures as comments...

6 comments:

Highgamma said...

When I was a teenager in NYC, there were a series of "scandals" involving doctors who were using their MD plates to illegally park even when there was not an emergency. (The rule in NYC was that you had the special parking privileges only when there was an emergency.) Perhaps, some doctors did not want to be subject to the extra punishment or justification that started to come from illegally parking, especially if they had little need to illegally park. (It's cheaper to pay the fine than to have your reputation impugned.)

Those who want to abuse the plates (which I'm sure is a small minority) may have found that handicapped plates are more valuable.

Heal Spieler said...

I don't see why an MD license plate would be necessary. Doctor should respect traffic laws, even in cases of emergency. They shouldn't put other drivers at risk.

Anna L. Conti said...

The break-in angle is probably part of the reason. As a Registered Nurse, I had to make home calls in one of my jobs. I was advised, when "heading to the projects, to *not* look like a nurse" as that would invite a mugging.

Another aspect to not advertising medical knowledge is the expectation that a doctor (or nurse) will help in emergencies - the problem is the increasing tendency of people to sue when outcomes are unsatisfactory.

Rian said...

A prof of mine's wife is an MD. She was in a car accident, and on the last day that it was possible, she was hit with a civil suit for all kinds of absurd damages. (The accident was less than 5mph).

Because of this incident, they got rid of their MD plate. They assumed the only reason that they were sued was that since she was a physician, it followed that she had deep pockets, and was a prime candidate for a civil suit.

It is also quite common for physicians to leave the MD off their address since they'd prefer not to have people know that they are physicians for similar reasons. Alas I cannot find the discussion thread on StudentDoctor.net at the moment.

Basically the primary reason has to do as being seen as a fatcat, and therefore a target for bottom-feeders.

Anonymous said...

Ever Think Doctors might not want to be pestered for Free Advise..
The days of Barter are over People..
Don't give me a Free Chicken Pay Your Bill

Major said...

The dope angle is not that new...

On April 21, 1944, and under the title of "Dope Precaution", the Vancouver Province newspaper reported that, at the request of BC doctors, the provincial government was ceasing the issuance of "PN" plates.

According to the Province the "familiar 'PN' license plates have now disappeared from cars driven by Vancouver physicians and surgeons, as have virtually all other such special identifying marks, following the growing increase of dope holdups and burglaries. Doctors, in an effort to make their autos as inconspicuous as possible, now carry the ordinary license plate, city traffic officers said today."