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Old 01-30-2008, 05:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: NYC
Town makes you pay for an accident

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n the tiny village of New Richmond, Ohio, most people who get involved in car accidents are from somewhere else.

Police can spend hours working a crash at the expense of the village's taxpayers, Police Chief Dave Willoughby said, even though none of its 2,483 residents caused the problem.

Now New Richmond and a growing number of cash-strapped communities large and small are billing at-fault out-of-town drivers and their insurance companies to recoup some of the cost of responding to and clearing accidents outside drivers cause.

Ocala, Fla., a community of 55,000, approved an ordinance last Tuesday that aims to collect more than $350,000 in annual reimbursements for police services. Larger cities, including Tampa and Boston, have expressed interest, according to Regina Moore, president of Dayton, Ohio-based Cost Recovery Corp., a company that helps communities bill accident-causers for police time.

New Richmond, Ohio, hopes to recover $25,000 this year after approving a similar ordinance in November, Willoughby said.

The practice of billing out-of-towners has raised the ire of drivers and insurance companies and a few communities have rescinded their ordinances. But accident fees for out-of-town drivers are still gaining popularity. During the past three years municipalities in at least 15 states — including Michigan, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina — have passed ordinances requiring at-fault drivers to pay up.

"We're bombarded with requests," Moore said. Her company, she said, receives 10% of whatever is collected.

Across the Ohio River from New Richmond in Erlanger, Ky. — a city where four major highways intersect and where 82% of accidents last year involved out-of-town drivers — city leaders expect to generate $100,000 with their ordinance. They bill at-fault drivers $14 for the first 30 minutes an officer is on scene and $7 for every 15 minutes thereafter.

"You're going to see a lot of cities (that) have the same problems we do look at this," Erlanger Mayor Tom Rouse said.

Even as the billing practice has gained momentum, a burgeoning movement has sprung up against the accident fees, which some call a "crash tax." In December, Pennsylvania passed a state law prohibiting them. The Ohio Insurance Institute created the websiteaccidentresponsefees.com as the practice took root in that state. Other sites have followed.

Some communities, including Radnor Township, Pa., and Wyoming, Mich., have instituted the fees only to drop them after citizen uproar.

Wyoming's City Council repealed its fee last week. Radnor ended its practice last February, before the state ban. After Radnor abolished its fees, the township refunded at least $47,000 to those who'd paid them, police Lt. A.J. Antonini said.

Stow, Ohio, ended its relationship with Cost Recovery in September 2006 and offered to reimburse drivers who had reimbursed the city.

Stow recovered $5,890 of the nearly $30,000 in bills sent to drivers and insurance companies, Police Chief Louis Dirker said. The small return and the unpopularity of the ordinance led to it being dropped after about a year.

Dirker still believes the practice has merit. He said Cost Recovery didn't make any false promises. "It just wasn't worth it," Dirker said. "The money wasn't there like we assumed it would (be)."

Critics say the fees could drive up insurance rates and hurt local businesses that rely on out-of-town customers.

"Crash taxes put the local community basically on a collision course with their local economy," said Mary Bonelli, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Insurance Institute. "Why would a business want to choose to invest in a community that sticks drivers with a tab that is routinely picked up by the community in most other states?"

"Most of our member companies do not pay these fees," she added. "We have yet to see an insurance policy that covers them."

"Insurance policies will cover you when you're liable or negligent. But in this situation, unless there's some sort of hazardous spill or something, there's no liability," said Kentucky Farm Bureau spokesman Greg Kosse.

When the insurance companies don't pay, the bills get sent to the drivers, Moore said. If drivers don't pay, the bills may be sent to collection agencies — or they may be tossed away, depending on what the ordinance dictates.
I am amazed by this, and unsure in how to reply. On one hand I do not think that towns should have to totally eat the cost, on the other hand, don't we pay enough taxes. I pay NYC tax, that goes for a lot of stuff that I have no desire to pay for and for lots of people who are non-residents.

I do have to agree with the comment that the town would lose business. Personally if I knew a certain town had that ordinance, despite my good driving record, I just would avoid it. Just out of disgust more then fear of maybe having an accident.
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Old 01-30-2008, 06:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I totally disagree with calling this a "crash tax." It's not whatsoever.. only at-fault drivers are charged, and they deserve to be charged. I do believe that only out-of-town at-fault drivers should be charged, though.. citizens of the town/municipality already pay taxes for their police service.

If you're an at-fault driver, I believe you deserve to pay for your screwup. It's not much different from paying for property you damage with your car, and the rates they quoted in that article are NOT really that high. If an officer is on scene for an hour (the longest I've ever had to deal with processing paperwork after a wreck) you're paying $28. That's less than your insurance is going to increase, so be more careful next time!

Yes, I'd be a little pissed if I got charged for getting into a wreck out-of-town, but ultimately it's my fault. I've been in one accident where I was at fault (4-car pileup, yayyy), and there were multiple wrecks leading into the same intersection so the police were extremely busy. That slowed down the processing time severely.
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Old 01-30-2008, 08:16 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I can see billing an at-fault driver if they are from out of town, but what happens when the at-fault driver is from town? Do they bill them as well? If not, that seems discriminatory. If so, then the town basically got paid twice for their services.

And like anything involving government, there doesn't appear to be a straight-ahead solution.....
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Old 01-30-2008, 08:24 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Greater Boston area
Thats just a bad idea from concept to enactment. If that town has so many accidents involving out -of-towners, then maybe it needs to look at its traffic patterns, road conditions and other factors that cause accidents.
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Old 01-30-2008, 08:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotzlid
Thats just a bad idea from concept to enactment. If that town has so many accidents involving out -of-towners, then maybe it needs to look at its traffic patterns, road conditions and other factors that cause accidents.
The problem with the two towns discussed that I am familiar with (New Richmond, OH and Erlanger, KY) is that they are border towns. They are located along main routes for commuters, literally on the edge of a state line (in this case, a river). Both experience heavy traffic from commuters and travelers; what are they supposed to do, move their towns? They can't reroute a state route or interstate highway at their convenience to reduce the number of accidents caused by out-of-towners.
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Old 01-30-2008, 09:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Greater Boston area
I didn't suggest re-routing or moving anything. Where are the accidents typically, at a particular intersection? Do they need more traffic lights as opposed to stop signs? Is speed a major factor in most of them? What are the condtions of the road itself? Those are the types of things they can cange that can reduce traffic accidents.
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Old 01-30-2008, 09:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Just raise the fines on the tickets. However, charging locals and non-locals different amounts is wrong (taxation without representation).
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Old 01-30-2008, 11:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: Central Central Florida
Doesn't seem right, but on the other hand I can't help but wonder...

If resident taxpayers are paying property taxes to maintain their own police and fire departments for their own safety, for example, and tourism and the population is increasing in surrounding towns, but this town is used as a pass-thru, why should they have to foot the bill for tourists and residents that don't contribute towards their economy?

You have a family to feed. You know you'll have guests, family, kids' friends and factor extra into your budget to accomodate those things. But you're not expecting dinner to be crashed on a nightly basis. Wouldn't you ask those "crashers" to pitch in?

The only town I'm familiar with on that list is Ocala, which is not a tourism-driven town. It's in the center of the state of Florida. I'm not sure where I personally stand on this, but I'm curious if this point has been considered.
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Old 01-30-2008, 11:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rekna
Just raise the fines on the tickets. However, charging locals and non-locals different amounts is wrong (taxation without representation).
It's not taxation, it's a service fee.

Where I'm from, drunken knucklehead rednecks like to drive their ginormous four by fours up the mountains and get them stuck in ten foot deep snow drifts. The search and rescue operations are FEE BASED. You go out being reckless and stupid, somebody will come haul your sorry ass back to civilization, and leave you with a bill, and that's the way it goes. There are occasional stories about people who honestly had bad luck and don't think they should have to pay, but even in those, there's usually some point in the story where you have to say, "well, there's your mistake right there". And it's not a stupidity tax: it's a SERVICE FEE. Those guys performed a SERVICE--putting themselves at risk, I might add--and they charge for it. And you couldn't have gone without it unless you wanted to walk down off the mountain and wait for Spring to release your precious truck. So shut up and pay, and then try to explain to your wife why you think you should go do it again next weekend.
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Old 01-30-2008, 11:44 AM   #10 (permalink)
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These drivers do contribute to there economy. Don't tell me they don't get business from the traffic in the town. People buy gas, food, etc. The city then gets money from taxes on those businesses.

In rural areas towns try to get major roads to come buy them in order to bring in business. I don't see them complaining about the extra traffic because they know that it brings in a lot of money.
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Old 01-30-2008, 11:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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It's always more tax, never less tax, get used to it.
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