Port Richey Needs To Reverse Vote On Collecting Crash Fees

Mar 7, 2008

The Tampa Tribune--Mar. 7, 2008

Unless Port Richey City Council wises up and reverses a vote from last week, the small city will become known as the most insensitive and unforgiving municipality in Pasco County.

The reason: The council has given initial approval to a cost-recovery program that aims to recoup the costs of city emergency services from insurance companies and nonresidents who cause automobile crashes in the city.

If an insurance company refuses to pay, a company that would be hired by the city would seek reimbursement directly from nonresidents who were at fault in crashes.

Such an arrangement, if given final approval, would send a terrible message to visitors, passers-through and tourists.

All three groups would be wise to stay clear of Port Richey and spend their money elsewhere. Not only could they be financially liable in more ways than one for a crash they may inadvertently cause, but they also may become victims of discrimination in a city that apparently doesn’t care about the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

The ordinance wouldn’t apply to city residents.

Make no mistake; this is very much a cruel crash tax that should never see the light of day or the glare of streetlights at night. The city should not be in the business of charging insurance companies and nonresidents to recoup money spent on services that a governmental entity has the responsibility of providing to all people, regardless of where they live, in times of emergencies.

If a motorist deliberately rams a vehicle into a person, building or another car, city police have every right to pursue criminal charges and prosecution, which more than likely would include restitution for the victims.

And if a motorist or someone else leads the police or fire department on a wild goose chase based on lies, the city would have every right to seek reimbursement for valuable time wasted.

But what is it about an accident that city officials don’t understand? Based on this ordinance, the city wants to charge insurance companies and nonresidents for simple mistakes, and that’s wrong.

City council needs to continue funding emergency services for all and let insurance companies and individuals sort out who should pay for car crash damages, claims and repairs. This cost-recovery proposal needs to be scrapped.