Around the country, cities and counties are deciding whether or not to charge “crash taxes,” an amount ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars that car accident victims would have to pay in order to cover the emergency response to the crash. Traffic accidents that involved serious injuries or car fires would cost the drivers more, while crashes that only required a police response would cost less. In some cities, drivers who were at fault for the accident would have to pay the entire crash tax “ but only if you could prove who was at fault
The tax has been expanded in more than 50 cities in 26 states, but there is a growing backlash against the practice. In Missouri City, Texas, drivers involved in an accident will be charged up to $2,000 even if they don’t call for help. According to Fire Chief Russell Sander, insurance companies will be forced to pony up the cash, not victims. Ten states so far have agreed that saddling victims with additional fines sends the wrong message and have outlawed it. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Bills prohibiting local governments from charging accident response fees have been introduced — but not yet passed — in Arizona, California and Michigan, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
While crash taxes can help struggling cities with tight budgets, it is difficult to see how these new fees can help car accident victims. Many driver will have to struggle with fixing their cars (or getting a new one) and with the medical bills that come with car accident injuries. Will drivers now also have to pay the city for their accident? In addition, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault for the accident and who should be responsible for paying the fee. Still, there are many other places that continue to tap the misfortunes of drivers to keep their communities from bleeding red ink.