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Sacramento Considers Non-Resident Auto Crash Fee

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sacramento Fire Captain Jonathan Burgess says firefighters respond to a lot of car crashes. That’s a big drain on the department.

“When you take into account the cost for staffing, fuel, you know, if there’s foam or some special equipment that has to be used, it can get quite expensive.”

The department wants to start charging drivers involved in auto accidents who are not residents of the city. Burgess says a lot of insurance policies would cover the fees…which would range from about $500 for an average crash to $2,200 if a helicopter is used to airlift victims. Just don’t call it a “crash tax.”

“We’re calling it a ‘vehicle cost recovery’ – not actually a tax, not something that’s going to actually generate profit.”

But the insurance industry says whatever you may call them, billing drivers is not the answer. Sam Sorich heads the Association of California Insurance Companies. He says a lot of auto insurance policies don’t provide coverage for those kinds of fees.  

“It’s just really unfair to have innocent people who find themselves victims of accidents having to pay recovery fees.”

Stockton, Oakland and Roseville already have similar cost-recovery ordinances. Dennis Mathisen is a division chief with the Roseville Fire Department. He says they use a third-party cost-recovery vendor to work with insurance companies. And in the past year, they’ve recovered $30,000.  

“We do not send the bill directly to the driver. It’s a relationship between our department and the insurance company that they work with.”

Sacramento city officials estimate the Fire Department could recover about $1 million a year in costs from accidents involving non-residents.
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