Fees for at-fault drivers face vote in Davie
Oct 1, 2008
The Davie Town Council will take its final vote Wednesday on a plan to have at-fault drivers pay fees to cover emergency responders’ costs.
BY KIRSTIN MAGUIRE
Miami Herald--October 1, 2008
Drivers who cause accidents on Davie roads may soon have to pay for the emergency response by the town’s police and fire departments.
The Town Council is scheduled Wednesday to take its final vote on imposing the fees, which could add up to more than $1,000 in the case of a serious accident. If the measure passes, Davie would be one of the first South Florida municipalities to charge motorists for the costs associated with responding to traffic accidents.
At-fault drivers, whether residents or not, would be responsible for the costs of responding to wrecks. The bill would be sent directly to insurance companies. If out-of-towners don’t have insurance, they would have to pay the bill themselves.
Davie residents, however, would pay nothing beyond what their insurance covers unless the at-fault Davie driver receives is cited for driving under the influence, violates a criminal traffic law or fails to carry the minimum insurance required by state law.
”It’s a cost-recovery fee; it’s not a double tax,” Town Council Member Susan Starkey said. “The majority of people shouldn’t have to pay for the recklessness of others.”
But the ordinance, which the council tentatively approved by a 3-2 vote Sept. 17, may be tabled tonight because Council Member Michael Crowley will not be in attendance due to the recent drowning of his daughter in Wolf Lake, he said.
On the earlier vote, Crowley supported the fee, along with Starkey and Council Member Marlon Luis. Mayor Tom Truex and Council Member Bryan Caletka voted against the measure.
CASH FOR DAVIE
Supporters say cash-strapped Davie needs the additional funds to support its emergency responses to a disproportionately large number of accidents. Busy Interstates 75 and 595 and Florida’s Turnpike border or run through the town. Under the ordinance, as written, the fee would apply to accidents that occur on all roads and local streets.
Truex, who supported the original measure, which applied only to highways, said he did not expect any council members to change their votes. The mayor has spoken against the fee because he fears neighboring communities would institute similar fee.
If that happened, he said, “It will just contribute to more taxes and higher insurance for everyone.”
If the ordinance is enacted, Davie would hire Dayton, Ohio-based Cost Recovery Corp. to bill the at-fault drivers’ insurers. The company would be hired without an open competitive bid because the company says that no other organization can provide that service, Truex said.
`HARD TO BELIEVE’
”They claim they’re the only ones who can do this, and I find this extremely hard to believe,” he said. “That stuff is supposed to go out to bid.”
Town Attorney John Rayson said he expected the ordinance to stand up in court. He said Davie is looking to collect from insurance companies, not individuals, to ensure the town’s resources aren’t unduly strained.
As long as people drive safely, he said, they will never have to pay the accident fee.
”If you don’t need or use these services, then you are not charged,” Rayson said.
Wednesday’s council meeting will begin at 7 at Town Hall, 6591 Orange Dr.