By on December 9, 2010

The last time we discussed the idea of “crash taxes,” it kicked off quite the debate. After all, it’s a question that cuts to the core of political philosophy: to what extent should individuals take responsibility for using public resources? As motorists, would we rather know that we’ll be taken care of in case of a crash, or would we rather have financial incentives to take care to not crash? Well, New York City has decided that, philosophy aside, it simply doesn’t have the money to send emergency responders to car crashes without charging some kind of fee. The WSJ reports

The FDNY plans to start sending out bills July 1. A vehicle fire or any other incident with injuries will cost $490. A vehicle fire without injuries will cost $415. And incidents without fire or injuries will cost $365. These charges apply to every vehicle involved in the incident.

Except, of course, when they don’t…

One of the major criticisms of “crash taxes” is that sometimes nobody is at fault for an accident. Why charge a taxpayer for an accident that he or she didn’t cause but couldn’t avoid? A FDNY spokesman clarifies

If we’re talking about an act of God situation, a tree falls on car, then we have discretion, obviously not to bill in those cases. If the accident is exceedingly minor, we show up on scene and nobody needs medical assistance and there’s no fire or anything like that, then, we have discretion.

But how much discretion? How will first responders be able to judge whether a motorist is at-fault or not? If city employees are found to be unevenly enforcing these fees, there will be lawsuits. And that’s not the only issue:

New York City officials project this policy will generate $1 million in annual revenue. Insurance officials said many auto insurance policies don’t cover these types of charges, and if companies are mandated to cover the charges, premiums will increase.

If you’re going to charge fees for first responders, the last thing you should do is force insurers to pay them: you lose the added incentive to not crash, and simply transfer the cost to every motorist by increasing the rates for mandatory car insurance. In any case, we’ll be watching NYC’s experiment with crash taxation with interest…

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43 Comments on “NYC Introduces “Crash Tax”...”

  • avatar
    M 1

    And all this time I thought all those people were paid out of taxes.

  • avatar

    Will auto insurnace policies cover this “tax?”
    If city busses or other city-owned vehicles are involved in an accident with they be charged as well?

  • avatar

    Ontario already has a sort-of crash tax. If there is a collision or other incident on an provincially owned roadway (for example, the 403) the responding service bills the province for response. Whether the province bills the company or individual responsible or not, I don’t know, but they will if it involves a commercial vehicle – easier to bill a large company than an individual, I guess.

  • avatar

    Considering that these services are taxpayer funded, I find this reprehensible…this has the diabolical hand of Deputy Mayor Goldsmith written all over it.  First Indiana, next NYC…

    • 0 avatar

      I agree.  As long as firemen and other first responders are paid via my tax dollars, having to pay further when I actually need their services is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar

      Billing those who don’t even use these “services” (via indiscriminate taxation), is surely even more reprehensible.
      But, of course, double billing is most reprehensible of all. And thus, exactly what our benevolent overlords have in stock for us.

    • 0 avatar

      Billing those who don’t even use these “services” (via indiscriminate taxation), is certainly even more reprehensible.
      But, of course, double billing is most reprehensible of all. And thus, exactly what our benevolent overlords have in stock for us.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t have a problem with paying for the FD, PD, or local schools out of my taxes.  I might not need the emergency services this year, and I might not have kids in the public schools either, but if I ever were in an emergency situation and I needed the FD or PD I’d want them to be ready, and when I do have children, I want them to go to schools that are well funded and up to date.
      Taxes exist to fund services necessary for a stable society, and I fully believe emergency services fall into that category.  My problem is paying for them out of my taxes and then having to pay twice when I actually need to use them.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. To be a member of a modern civil society you need to agree to certain things, such as paying taxes to cover things like emergency services or education through high school. IMHO crash taxes are an underhanded way of getting around the fact that municipalities cannot live within their means. If I can’t live with the salary my employer pays me, can I assess him a surcharge if he avails me of a particular bit of expertise I have as a course of doing my job? Give that one a try and get back to me.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    If somebody committed a ticketable offense, ticket them.  It’s that simple. Do we not have laws that generally prevent fires, crashes, physical injury etc.?

    I like the idea of punishing the negligent, but the negligent are selfish. Monetary disincentive for requesting necessary emergency services is very bad public policy.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the way it’s already been here in Miami for a decade or longer.  In an accident, almost everyone gets an automatic ticket.
      Typically: driving without due care for conditions.  As if.

  • avatar

    Is this sueable? It should be. A nice class action suit for multimillions should cut this out at the pass. Double taxation is fraudulent. End of story.

  • avatar

    Lots of existing government services carry fees. Licenses, permits, etc. Good luck fighting this is court.
    Yes, we’ve won the war against high taxes. Enjoy!

  • avatar

    What if you are a pedestrian who causes an auto accident while committing a crime by walking backwards and shooting off a gun at traffic? Ok, too complicated. How about just a pedestrian who causes an auto accident?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    For the ^uckwads that cause accidents and snarl up traffic on the west side highway, by the holland, lincoln or midtown tunnels, they should be charged thousands. Sitting in an hours worth of traffic, only to eventually pass some shithead in a beater maxima that’s rear ended a toyota minivan causing two lanes to shut down… well, if I had two rocks, I’d throw one at each of them.

  • avatar

    next thing you pay a tax to the Police if you have an emergency. Check your wallet before you call about that burglary….. maybe the burglar takes less money from you than the Police will… After all, you live in a nice house and therefore it is your fault that you attracted burglars. The other citizens shouldn’t pay for your “living in a house that looks like it has nice stuff to steal”.
    The whole idea of having a civilization is, is to socialize such risks for the overall good. Much like an insurance, but not private. I pay tax for Police and fire, even if my house never burns down. Because I have an advantage if they come to my neighbor’s fire or burglary since that makes my home safer too. I pay taxes for school even when I don’t have children. Because children being smart helps my country to have a good economy, and will enable me to get my pension when they work.  Even in cruel societies like the roman empire there was some free service like Police etc.
    I do see that the coast guard charges a stupid private sailor who got the idea to go sailing in a hurricane and needed rescuing. This is just plain stupid and endangers the live of the helpers. But car accidents are a normal occurrence on my way to work (my way to make money to pay taxes)
    It is not like accident rates will be reduced. People don’t get in accidents because they are “free”.
    I’m not even sure if the left or right wing nuts would be outraged or excited about a crash tax. Right wing nuts should like the non-socialist move on kicking someone who already is in an accident. But they should hate the additional tax. Left-wing nuts should hate the fact individuals are held responsible, but they should love another revenue stream for government union jobs.

  • avatar

    I’d be more in favor of fees for incidents involving misuse of EMS, BS calls to 911, etc.  Basically, I’m in favor of financial penalties for misuse of public resources.  But the thought of getting penalized because some a– rear ends me, and needs medical attention… That’s not right.  I say the party at fault pays the whole bill – out of pocket.  Keep the insurance companies out of it.  For every dollar they pay, they’ll bill us two.

    • 0 avatar

      This assumes that every at fault person will have two nickles to rub together … I posit here, with no facts at all, that this is more often than not not the case.

      Those that skip paying insurance probably will be hard-pressed to pay such a fine…

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, that’s the basic stumbling block with charges for (ab)use of emergency services.  The frequent flyers have nothing to collect, the illegal amigos work in cash and have nothing in their name which is functionally the same as nothing to collect, so the people you’re successfully discouraging are the lower end of the working class with just enough to have something to lose.

    • 0 avatar

      On the illegal’s end, an interesting article and statistics item appeared to day in the NYT:

  • avatar

    So who would they bill for another 9/11/2001? The port authority for owning the WTC or the ofc workers who worked there?  When King Abdullah (15 of the 19 hijackers from Saudi Arabia) pays NYC for all the police and firefighters in use that day (as in never going to happen), I’ll consider this fee fair.  BTW I believe he happens to be in the whereabouts of NYC at the present, perhaps a collector could pay him a visit.

  • avatar

    Sorry, got a little too far into the weeds with that post.  A previous blog about a Saudi car, a story about NYC with a picture of a plane on it just put it all together for me

  • avatar

    I’m for anything that makes the fertile and irresponsible pay a little of their own way for a change.
    But if the point is to make being irresponsible hurt there’s an awfully long list of blatantly-on-purposes that are more in need of discouragement than fender benders.  If this is about simple revenue as they claim then there’s an even longer list of handouts and makework that belong on the chopping block before a basic emergency service.

  • avatar

    I’m not so concerned about double taxes, as its similar to increased taxes, I’m concerned about the psychological effects of this. From fear of travel to fear of calling in services. The insurance companies probably love this. Also what about the notion that everyone is entitled to help? Taxes mask the truth that we pay for help, but this again may hurt sentiment towards American values. Seems like its becoming more clear that an everybody for themselves approach is in control ie. survival of the fittest.

  • avatar

    when the govt ran out of $$ they want to increase tax, levy tax in every conceivable, unconceivable ways.
    or what else is new.
    I heard in Arnold’s Carlifornia the revenue generating staffs such as ticket writers, meter maids, city inspectors still get paid, but non-essential services  Library staffs will get some cut in their pay.

  • avatar

    Awesome; a regressive tax!

    You get charged more if there are injuries. So… Two rich people and two poor people get into the same accident – same speed, same cause, etc.

    But the rich people have good cars, and are unlikely to be injured – whereas the poor people have crap cars, and are -more- likely to be injured.

    So what we end up with is a situation where a rich guy and a poor guy make exactly the same mistake, but the working stiff not only gets injured, but is then charged extra because of it!

    Talk about adding insult to injury…

  • avatar

    well, I think charging that much is just plain robbery. I’m not american, and i’m not stupid, but once you pay as high taxes as you do over there, public services for fire and medical aid are part of the deal.
    In the UAE, and not sure why other than it makes them one helluva big income, the police has to be notified and make a report of even the slightest damage to your car (parking scrape/mishap) so that the insurance will cover it even if you just scrapped the wall, you need to tell the police, they will come all smiling, write up a report, and give it to you, but wait for it, as you are contemplating the report, the policeman will be writing a ticket for failing to avoid a crash worth about 60 dollars. the bigger the crash the bigger the pay, and so on.
    now i innocently think that this 60 bucks charge is mainly to cover the expenses and time to have a cruiser come by your house or the crash site and fill the paperwork, or in some other cases pay the damages one might have caused to a parking bolder, street lamp post etc… and it’s also a great way to gather statistics of even the slightest fender benders.  but again in the UAE you don’t pay for tax and in this way you are only taxed when you do the deed and when it’s your fault…if you are not at fault you walk away, or limp away (hopefully never worse)…charge free (call it Tax on Demand)
    I kind of see the point, and the U.S should perhaps do something similar.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    NYC’s traffic congestion tax was gunned down. So this is really just another way of getting more cars off the streets. They’ll figure out something else to put on top of it.

  • avatar

    If this goes into effect, my Wife and I will be doing our shopping elsewhere. You wan’t to try to dip into my wallet NYC? You can’t get what isn’t there.

  • avatar

    This all comes down to a consumption tax – which would only make sense if the powers that be reduce our “income” tax or other consumption tax (i.e. sales/use) in kind.  That will never happen.  I am trying to read into their logic – speculating whether the taxes we already pay only get the Emergency Responders to be in the “ready” status in order to respond to said emergency – then we are charged this fee when they respond (above what taxes we pay for their “ready” status).

  • avatar

    To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher: The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other peoples’ money. 

  • avatar

    While aligning the financial burden of services rendered with those receiving the services is always a positive move, the equitable administration of this system would prove impossible, especially with the discretion to not charge the fee. The only effective fee system would be one that charged for excessive use of FD or PD services, e.g. service charges for answering false burglar alarms. One free service per vehicle and/or citizen per year, addl services would be charged. Good drivers pay nothing more than taxes, bad drivers pick up the slack.

  • avatar

    It also seems that if you’re going to be charged for a service, you must have the choice to decline the service or select an alternate service and/or provider. How will NYC handle that?

  • avatar

    Sad but they are just catching on to what some ambulance services already do. Here in Florida there are a number of ambulance services that no longer accept any form of insurance. The basic rate is $1,500 and you have no idea or choice when you call 911 if the service will accept insurance or not.

  • avatar

    Essentially, they are saying “we need to charge more for the service.” But how do we, the taxpayers, know whether we get our money’s worth?
    There is only one way to tell: competition.
    1) Cut off all public fundings to them
    2) Allow them to charge whatever they want
    3) Allow all qualified operators to enter the business. After all, operating emergency service is not rocket science. There are private doctors doing surgery on people’s hearts and eyeballs (and yes they are competitively priced because there is competition, just look at how much Lasik charge now). I don’t see why a private operator can’t haul you to a hospital.
    On a separate note, I do think that police should give tickets to people who caused accidents or stalls. I mean, people are charged $200 for just speeding, but not charged for speeding causing damage? Come on … Those who are at fault, after conviction of course, should be charged more. Like $2000 for speeding causing damage and congestion, $20000 for speeding causing death.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    Most municipalities do charge for excessive false alarms. If you are a business and you want the police/fire to respond, you better not have any outstanding false alarm fines. This is to prompt folks to keep their police and fire alarm systems in good condition.
    To charge for fire to respond to a car accident has been an idea floated around for some time. But if 1/3 of the vehicles on the road, at least in Florida, have expired tags or no insurance, then it just looks like a tax on the motorists who keep their “papers” up to date.
    I’d be willing to bet that the NYPD will send out a lot of uncollectible fines, then get the legislature to force insurance companies to pick up the charge. Viola! More revenue for NYC.

  • avatar

    I think there can be a justification for the ‘double billing’, as it were.  It’s a valid pricing structure that we can pay one fee (through normal taxation) for basic readiness of a service, and then pay a user fee when that service is used.  This keeps the costs down for those who don’t need additional service, but who want the availability in case of future need, while charging those who use the service.
    A couple of things that do tend to bother me about the practice of such a scheme, however, are that the costs are never broken down that way, and there are no competing services.  Indeed, you are compelled to pay in both instances, even if you are not the person who makes the decision to call for it.  For instance, say there’s an accident on the road.  The two people who are in the accident are able to limp their vehicles to the side of the road, but are not otherwise roadworthy.  Neither is injured enough to, in their own estimation, require emergency services.  But some other person driving by sees a car with a wrinkled up hood and the other with a smashed in wheel, and calls 911.  Now the people who had the accident are going to be on the hook paying a fee for a ‘service’ neither needed nor requested.  Additionally, the ‘service’ provided by the emergency responders has no positive benefit, as those involved would have moved their vehicles as quickly as they could anyway, and been out of the way, while when emergency vehicles  show up they make a big show of blocking most, if not all, of the road, ‘securing’ the site, and taking a lot of time to do it.
    What this really is is a cash grab.  Finding themselves without as much money as they’d like, they’re trying to invent a new fee structure to make more money.

  • avatar

    Taxpayers are the worlds greatest fools…They are too stupid to be free.

  • avatar

    I already paid for the station house.
    I already paid for the training and salary.
    I’m paying for the pensions and health insurance (and let us not get is only that corporate America has managed to kill these things for private workers that people suddenly get all jealous that a few still have them)
    Now I have to pay again ?
    How about I opt out of speed enforcement costs and traffic violations prosecution.  I don’t need those services, thank you :)

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