If you are involved in or are a witness to an accident, what's the first thing you should do? Call #911, right? While we're certainly not advising against using the emergency service, making that call may wind up being rather costly to either yourself or the victim. Proof of such can be seen in the case of Cary Feldman, who was traveling through Chicago Heights, IL on his motor scooter when he was stuck from behind.
As CBS 2 Chicago tells it, a witness to Feldman's accident called #911, as you might hope and expect them to do. "There was no fire, there was no explosion, there was no debris," according to Feldman. "From what I saw, they came, they saw, and they left."
Still, the Chicago Heights Fire Department responded and examined the scene before they left. Shortly thereafter, Feldman received a bill for $200 while the person who hit him, who lives in Chicago Heights, got a bill for $100.
Don't think you can just avoid the issue by not paying. Feldman reports that officials were "sending me letters and they even turned it over to collections without sending a final notice... So this is what I call extortion. This is how they get you to pay it."
Such so-called "crash taxes" are an alarming trend in the 41 states that have not banned the practice. At present, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are the only states that don't allow these so-called crash taxes. Illinois lawmakers are even considering legislation that would allow municipalities to bill up to $250-per-hour for emergency services that are already funded in part by taxes. It's also being considered in some California towns.
Not everyone with a vote in Illinois thinks the would-be law is a good idea. Representative Karen Yarbrough (D – 7th District) calls it a "very bad bill," adding, "This is just another way to reach into a consumer's pocket." Chicago Heights Fire Chief Thomas Martello suggests that such methods are necessary in response to tight budget constraints and says that house fires won't incur an added bill.
Feldman remains unconvinced that the tactic is appropriate. "I'm going to call it a scam," said Feldman. "Just a way to make money instead of helping people." So, we ask you: Good, creative way to ease tight budget constraints for emergency services, or just another blatant money grab? Consider the topic officially up for debate. Feel free to voice your own opinion in our Comments section below.
[Source: CBS 2 Chicago]