- Feb 19th 2013 at 1:52PM
Extra Taxes After A Car Crash? One Texas City Mulls The Idea
At-fault drivers could face up to a $2,000 fee
The city of Missouri City, Texas -- a suburb of Houston -- is going to start charging drivers for responding to car accidents, according to KHOU.com.
The fee, known as a "crash tax," is meant to cover the costs of the first responders that come to aid in the event of an accident. And it's not cheap. According to KHOU, the fee can range from $500 to $2000 depending on the severity of the accident, and will be charged even if drivers don't call for help.
NPR reports that cities in 26 states now permit their emergency responders to charge response fees. But those taxes may not be worth the bother -- when Petaluma, Calif., tried collecting a crash tax in 2011 of up to $2,500 for accident response and road cleanup, it only made $14,000, NPR said. The city was expecting to make $100,000.
In Missouri City, the idea is to use the fees, which will only apply to drivers that are at fault in the accident, to help alleviate the city's budget deficit. According to Fire Chief Russell Sander, the charge will be billed to insurance companies, not to the drivers directly.
"They're not going to see something sent to their house," he said.
However, KHOU found that explanation isn't quite good enough for local drivers.
"Everything's ridiculous right now," said Vicky, a Missouri City driver. "Everybody's out to make money -- especially the government."
The crash tax isn't exactly a new idea, though in the past it has been used to target non-residents of an area who cause an accident.
In 2011, Fraser, Mich. employed such a crash tax in an effort to raise more money for emergency services.
"The intent here isn't to gouge somebody. We're not out here trying to make additional revenue. We're just trying to cover costs," Fraser city manager Richard Haberman told The Associated Press.
New York City backed off its proposal to collect this kind of fee. Ten states have banned the crash tax, said NPR, saying it sends the wrong message. Insurance companies, the ones who were expected to pay the fines, applauded states' moves to ban the taxes.
"We applaud lawmakers for responding to the strong public opposition to this new trend of charging accident response fees," said Kelly Campbell, vice president for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, after Arizona passed its bill banning crash taxes. "Ultimately these fees are a back-door tax that most consumers believe are unnecessary."