Towns Charge Non-Locals Fees For Getting In Crashes

Some small towns, pissed at having to use town resources on accidents mainly caused by out-of-towners, are now fining non-locals if they get in a smashup. Erlanger, Kentucky is one such town. Four major highways intersect there. They charge drivers $14 for the first 30 minutes a cop is there and $7 for every 15 minutes after that. Insurance companies aren’t always covering the cost of the fee, and so the bills get sent to the drivers. This could lead to a perverse situation where locals try to cause accidents in order to raise money for the town coffers.

Towns seek cash per crash from out-of-town drivers [USAToday] (Thanks to Robert!)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. HRHKingFriday says:

    I suppose this is what happens when muni bonds are filled with subprime SIVs and property values are tanking. Gotta find the money for things like police somewhere!

  2. B says:

    The last sentence seems like a rather big stretch. Not to mention illegal. I don’t have much problem with small towns charging out-of-towners for their public services.

  3. Falconfire says:

    Just has to be elevated to a court and its over. Crash tax for out of city drivers is nothing more than a “commuter” tax and the federal government ruled those illegal years ago except for specific cases.

  4. bobpence says:

    Um, equal protection anyone? This is likely to get tossed out in court, whereas a simple plan to discount tickets paid in-person would have a similar effect without being patently discriminatory.

  5. darkclawsofchaos says:

    doesn’t this discourage people from contacting law enforcement?

  6. Munsoned says:

    Agreed. An Equal Protection claim under federal (lets assume they charge an out-of-state driver) or maybe even the state constitution if it has such a clause should end this. Why don’t they just ticket out-of-town drivers more (without admitting to doing so) like every other town?

  7. jamesdenver says:

    Things like interstate highways and services bring MONEY to these towns. These aren’t backwater outposts like the movie “Doc Hollywood.” where it’d be understandable if they were totally strapped for cash.

    Ocala Florida? Please. Been there. A town with “The Museum of Drag Racing” should not be complaining about too many accidents…

    [www.futuregringo.com]

  8. HRHKingFriday says:

    @B: Haha, that reminds me of those horror movies where the killer lays spikes in the road, right near the gas/repair station… mua hahaha!

  9. ekthesy says:

    My head asplode. Aren’t cops paid by the municipality to do their jobs, whatever that entails? If something happens in the town, it’s the police’s job to respond to it. What if I’m walking down the street in downtown Erlanger and I get mugged? Is the responding officer going to charge me when I call 911 and s/he shows up because I’m not a resident?

    This is completely ridiculous.

  10. Corydon says:

    Yeah the last sentence is a bit over the top, considering that they “are billing at-fault out-of-town drivers and their insurance companies” (emphasis added). Of course, if this turned into a nefarious revenue stream, I suppose the local police department could say that every out of towner was at fault.

    Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a private company profiting from this: “Dayton, Ohio-based Cost Recovery Corp.”

    This is the real crime IMO…the continued outsourcing of law enforcement.

  11. @ekthesy: if you’re in downtown erlanger and you get mugged, trust me, you’re screwed no matter what.

  12. B says:

    Of course, there is an easier revenue stream for small towns hoping to bilk out-of-towners. Lower all the speed limits and post cops on the major roads, and ticket every speeder they don’t recognize.

  13. RogueSophist says:

    This will last about thirty seconds in court, and the judge will welcome the bit of levity it’s brought to his or her day.

  14. Balisong says:

    Just imagine it! An army of beatup minivans searching for their prey! Villagers lying in wait in the roadside bushes, armed with electric torches to blind passing drivers in the night! People hidden at intersections, poised to change all stoplights to green when an out-of-state license plate is detected! Oh the evil villainy!! My God, why didn’t I see it before?!?

  15. bukz68 says:

    I wouldn’t have a problem with this if I had the right to tell the officer that I didn’t need his services and that he could be on his merry little way…

  16. pengajim says:

    @jamesdenver:
    That’s the Big Daddy Don Garlit’s Drag Racing Museum!

  17. Copper says:

    Good source of revenue for the small town, until it gets overturned. Although, in Kentucky, it might not, at least for awhile.

    But I don’t think anyone will go out of their way to get into wrecks with out-of-towners because a wreck goes on your driving record, also, even if you’re not “at fault” and you get punished by your insurance company either way.

  18. TechnoDestructo says:

    “This could lead to a perverse situation where locals try to cause accidents in order to raise money for the town coffers.”

    I think if this happened, it would be via confusing signage and road lines. (My only serious car accident involved some confusing road lines and an intersection with odd geometry, but I attribute that part to incompetence, not malice) I mean we already have hundreds if not thousands of municipalities which are perfectly willing to create hazards by setting up unreasonable or confusing speed limit changes for the purposes of revenue generation.

    Also, I’m not sure you’d ever see individuals trying to cause accidents due to the risks to themselves. Signage is the way to go, since it could be used to create single-vehicle accidents, and you could arrange curbs and landscaping to minimize the chance of death or injury.

    @bobpence:

    Reading this got the wheels turning and then you abruptly stopped them. I think you’re absolutely right.

  19. shan6 says:

    Looks like they got their pricing scheme from Walmart.

  20. ptkdude says:

    @B: So you’ve been to Defuniak Springs, Florida?

  21. alice_bunnie says:

    Well, even if the last sentence is over the top, it might encourage the police officers to slow down the reporting and take their time to rack up the bill. They take forever already!

  22. unklegwar says:

    Sounds like someone’s been watching too much Dukes of Hazzard.

  23. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Corydon: Of course, if this turned into a nefarious revenue stream, I suppose the local police department could say that every out of towner was at fault.

    Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!

    How many times do you think the local cops are reminded that if a nonlocal is at fault the town gets money and that if a local is at fault they get nothing? Probably about as often as they get reminded that there are no quotas, but any truly motivated officer would be writing X number of tickets per month

  24. humphrmi says:

    @B:

    I don’t have much problem with small towns charging out-of-towners for their public services.

    I do. This is a slippery slope. Town A pays for their cops with local taxes, so does Town B. If I’m from Town B, and Town A is going to charge me for their police services, then I don’t want drivers from Town A taking advantage of my services when they come to Town B. It’ll all end up in a pissing match, and at the end of the day a Fed Circuit will throw it out.

  25. greenpepper says:

    This is synonymous to the resident parking only at a wonderful beach a mile from here and how those that live by the beach can park in front of my house all day and take the train to work without a worry.

    I suppose the neighboring local police should be able to surcharge the residents of those communities charing a fee a surcharge for services when issuing a ticket.

  26. homerjay says:

    Well its still better than a fee for not wearing puffy directing pants.

  27. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    Absolutely an equal protection issue. In Virginia, we are currently mopping up after the legislature created an ill-advised revenue scheme involving special civil fees tacked onto what were various classes of traffic violations. Those fees were only levied against Virginia drivers; out of state drivers committing the same offenses did not have to pay them. So, it was sort of the flip side of this. But the argument was the same. After a number of state courts struck down the fees as unconstitutional, the legislature finally passed legislation to end the fees, this week.

  28. martyf says:

    Well, this is interesting.
    I’m a volunteer firefighter, and 71% of our calls are for car wrecks and auto extrications. We’re not paid, and only 14% of our annual budget comes from local municipality taxes. Of the car wrecks we get, 85% involve people who do not live in and pay taxes in our coverage area.

    Last year, our fire company ran a $17,000 deficit, this year, we’ll run a $25,000 deficit unless we can increase our municipality funding.

    I’ll put it this way – I don’t have to show up to cut people out of cars, I can stay home on a late Christmas Eve. In fact, two districts over, that’s exactly what’s happening – the fire company is so strapped for cash and members that their auto extrication truck is out of service and we have to respond. The last time I did, a guy bled to death because he was trapped in the car and nobody could get him out. It took him at least 45 minutes to die before we actually showed up.

    So is it worth $14 an hour? $7 an hour? I guess not.

  29. martyf says:

    OK, then, commuter taxes need to be illegal as well.

  30. Parting says:

    Common sense. Same thing as giving tickets to people out of US.

  31. UpsetPanda says:

    @Cogito Ergo Bibo: And thank goodness they did! Tim Kaine really made himself a fool on this one, I think.

  32. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Erlanger gets a lot of traffic from people commuting into Cincinnati, so this would be hugely profitable for them. They could possibly justify it in the same way they justify charging event-holders for additional police protection. This’ll be a fun court case either way

  33. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    @UpsetPanda: Oh, he had plenty of company! Really restores your faith in governement. Not.

  34. photomikey says:

    “This could lead to a perverse situation where locals try to cause accidents in order to raise money for the town coffers.”

    I don’t know whether I read this site for the great consumer finds and bargains, or the rampant over dramatization of non-news. It’s like fatwallet and fark, all mixed into one.

  35. typetive says:

    @photomikey: “It’s like fatwallet and fark, all mixed into one.”

    photomikey wins the thread!

  36. alhypo says:

    They are only charging them $24 and hour? That really is a reasonable rate for the time the officer spends on the scene. That’s only a $48,000 annual salary, which is about what a seasoned police officer makes.

  37. alhypo says:

    Hehe.. sorry, $28 hr. And I’m a math major!

  38. President Beeblebrox says:

    @HRHKingFriday: Exactly. Police departments are funded by taxes to do their jobs. This is just like hotels tacking on junk fees for things like clean towels that the nightly room rate is supposed to be paying for in the first place.

  39. jeffbone says:

    @ptkdude: Don’t forget Lawtey and Waldo, FL — the only two towns in the US obnoxious enough to even have the (generally asleep on the subject) AAA designate them as speedtraps.

  40. Gorky says:

    I think they should charge ALL people who cause accidents a charge and make it much bigger. The only exception is if the accident was caused by an equipment malfunction or a medical condition like a seizure. Otherwise the only cause of an accident is either a bad or inattentive driver. If they are going to make me late for work due to something that was avoidable then they should pay. Im losing money for every minute they make me late for work and I didnt even cause the accident.

  41. StevieD says:

    “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.”

    Let me guess how. I am a local. I am in a wreck. I call my friends & family for a lift and my favorite towing service to take the car to the repair shop. Police work the traffic scene until I am gone. Maybe 30 minutes.

    Compare the local to an out of towner. The wreck occurs. The out of towner calls their friend that lives 90 miles away. The out of towner insists that the car is towed by the dealership which causes a delay in getting the car towed. The police work the wreck and then endup waiting another hour or so while the out of towner is picked up by out of town friends or family.

    There is cause for such charges. The method of charging the fees should be different.

  42. cde says:

    @Gorky: So how bout an accident caused by a third driver cutting off the first? Or a deer jumping into the way?

  43. shadow735 says:

    Sweet a new insurance add on for more premium revenue. Seriously though, while I get where they are coming from, this is stupid. I wonder how they determine who is at fault, it would probably involve the insurance companies, what if both parties are at fault or one only a percentage?

  44. AcidReign says:

        This sounds exactly like something our local tax ‘n’ spend mayor would love. See, you drive through a Birmingham interstate; then a meth-stoned, uninsured, unlicensed driver sideswipes you, then tries to rob you when you stop. That’s where the lovely Magic City steps in, and charges YOU an hourly rate for the investigation and police report. I love it! This could actually end up PAYING for the Domed Stadium the taxpayers rejected at the polls…

  45. K-Bo says:

    My worry as a local would be that it would be harder to get cops to respond to my wreck with someone in my neighborhood on a busy day, because the wreck of 2 non-locals a few blocks over is more profitable

  46. Patches O'Houlihan says:

    These are all great comments about equal protection, and service paid by taxpayers. However, please keep one thing in mind here, traffic crashes do not need to be investigated by the police unless there is a crime. Police do criminal investigations, traffic crashes are civil matters which result in litigation and subrogation in legal processes based upon a mediated negligence score in the insurance industry or civil courtroom. As such the time spent investigating traffic crashes is done for the sake of insurance companies which are getting fatter and fatter every day with income but are unwilling to cover their responsibilities. I have no problem with any government entity recovering the cost associated with their staff engaging a matter that they are not required by their charter or law to be involved in. In the same light think about the massive costs incurred by government to clean up or manage a scene which was caused by a private industry error. As example, a local gas company ruptures a large line which mobilizes massive amounts of governmental staff to secure the safety of the surrounding area. Should the taxpayers bear that financial burden? Think about it…

  47. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Probably unconstitutional under both the commerce clause & the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

    So ultimately this town will lose a shitload of money when the federal courts rule this unconstitutional & the resulting class action lawsuit bankrupts the town!

  48. spamaroni says:

    They might be okay if they charge everyone, instead of out of towners only. The Grand Canyon National Park charges everyone who needs it the full cost of extraction, no matter where they’re from.

  49. Helmut_Spargle says:

    Actually, this is probably not an Equal Protection Clause issue (unless “not from around here” is now a protected class). But you might be able to come up with a good Privileges and Immunities Clause argument. (As distinguished from the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which is essentially a dead letter.)

  50. forgottenpassword says:

    Why dont they just max out the taxes & fees on other out of towner needs like every city does? like hotel rooms & rental cars. I hate it when a town tries to fleece tourists.

  51. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, on the bright side, the local council hasn’t tried banning Darwin. Sounds like the type of place where it’s next on their agenda, though.

  52. ClayS says:

    Sounds a little like what goes on in Mexico. Locals in cahoots with the police deliberately running into foreigners in order to fleece them.

  53. swalve says:

    Wow, who would have thought that charging people for the trouble they cause would be such a problem.

    $14 is not a deliberate fleece, it’s more like asking someone who uses a service to pay a fraction of the cost.

    You people are really something.

  54. Phanatic says:

    I lived in Radnor, one of the towns mentioned in the article. Calling Radnor ‘cash-strapped’ is pretty hysterical, it’s actually an extremely wealthy Main Line suburb of Philadelphia, with a median income of $125,000, median home price of over $600,000, and virtually nonexistent crime.

    Turns out that what happened is that they were approached by some debt collector who fed them a line saying “Hey, we’ll send bills to the at-fault’s insurance company, they pay right up and it’s free money for both of us.” Turns out that, hey, nope, one guy’s insurance company didn’t pay, and sent him a bill instead. Then he started getting notices directly from the debt collector. And it turns out, he was a lawyer.

    Whoops. He made a lot of noise. Turns out the township was submitting bills for minor finder-benders that didn’t even require police presence or EMS. Further turns out that since the cops in Radnor really don’t have a lot to do, three or four cars were showing up for accidents that really only needed one cop to show up and record the details, and people were getting billed for the over-response. It was pretty embarassing, both the way they were trying to game it, and the way they essentially got taken in by the debt collector and his promise of free money and assurance that he’d only be sending bills to insurance companies.

    Eventually it turned out that the bills had no legal force whatsoever, and were basically just notes saying “We’d like you to give us some money.” Between that, and the pretty well-established legal principle that you can’t treat people differently under the law based upon their address, the township refunded the money and stopped doing this.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see sleezy, huckster debt collector companies behind this practice in other towns.

  55. ppiddyp says:

    Lots of emergency services charge for use. You pay for an ambulance ride. Lots of fire departments charge you for putting out fires. The coast guard charges you for the helicopter rescue when your ice fishing shanty sinks. I guess this is no different.

  56. strathmeyer says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: “doesn’t this discourage people from contacting law enforcement?”

    Buahahahahahah! Our government at work!