States advance ‘crash tax’ bans

| Thursday, April 14, 2011

Efforts to provide protections from fees applied for police and fire personnel responding to vehicle accidents are drawing consideration in states from coast to coast.

According to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 10 states already prohibit accident-response fees. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have forbidden the fees.

Arizona and Utah will soon bring the roll call to a dozen states. Starting in mid May, Utah law will restrict fees that municipalities can charge after accidents.

Previously SB273, the new law allows local agencies to continue to charge “at fault” drivers for towing, debris clean up, or to repair damaged roads. Fees for ambulance services are also not prohibited. However, charging a “flat fee” for showing up at an accident will be forbidden.

In Arizona, a new law offers some protection from “crash tax” fees. According to the state, there are no Arizona communities that currently charge for crash-response services.

Effective in late July, cities and counties will be prohibited from pursuing fees in the future. However, crash taxes could be applied for property damage, ambulance services, or in rural areas without their own fire or police department.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said during testimony on the bill that the protection is needed to make sure citizens don’t get a “double charge.” He pointed out that residents and non-residents already pay for the services through sales and property taxes.

“It’s very dangerous when you start charging people for necessary services that are already being paid with taxes,” Kavanagh told lawmakers.

A bill nearing passage at the Kansas statehouse would prohibit the collection of crash taxes in communities throughout the state.

Awaiting a House vote to clear the path for the bill to move to Gov. Sam Brownback, HB2119 would provide protections for anyone involved in a wreck inside or outside the city.

Incidents involving the cleanup of hazmat and the need for ambulance services would not be prohibited from incurred costs.

More than 50 cities throughout California have crash taxes in place that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the incident.

Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, said it is unfair to charge people who live in surrounding communities but travel downtown five days a week for work.

“Californians, regardless of the city in which they live, work, or visit, should be awarded certain public safety protections,” Strickland said in a recent statement.

These concerns led him to introduce a bill that would prohibit local governments in the future from charging a fee or tax to any person, regardless of whether or not they live in the community, for the cost related to emergency responders.

Communities with crash taxes in place would not be affected by the rule.

The bill – SB49 – is in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Also in New York is a bill that would require legislative approval of any first-responder fee.

Currently, there is no state law that prohibits imposing additional fees and taxes on motorists involved in wrecks for emergency response services. In fact, the New York City Fire Department has proposed implementing fees that range from $365 to $490.

“We must not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of middle-class New Yorkers who have the misfortune to be involved in a vehicular accident,” Sen. Eric Adams, D-Brooklyn, stated.

The bill – S2277 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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