Published on:

Could the State Reduce Florida Car Accident Rates by Charging a “Crash Tax”?

In the past, some cities in Florida have suggested charging a “crash tax” to the insurance companies of drivers who cause accidents. Currently, a number of cities across the nation charge such a fee, which ranges from about $500 to $2,000, on average. Lately, Tampa has been contemplating such a move.

Tampa Councilman Curtis Stokes is one of the individuals who supports such a fee. In the media, he has noted that currently clean-up costs after an accident are absorbed by a city and its taxpayers, while such a fee scheduled would ensure that the expense of clean-up would go towards the insurance costs of the at-fault driver. The money from the insurance providers, he believes, could be placed in a trust fund to help pay for related Florida car accident expenses, such as public safety expenses.

A law signed in 2009 by Gov. Charlie Crist may pose a legal challenge to such a fee. That law effectively bans fees levied for investigation or response costs. In the past few years, a number of states — Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee among them – have passed similar laws to protect drivers and insurance companies from such costs.

A number of South Florida cities, on the other hand, are working with contractors to recover costs associated with fire-rescue services provided at Florida car accident scenes. Collection agencies, consultants, and private billing have also suggested to governments that they could build revenues by charging accident fees as well. Now that many governments are facing revenue issues and tightening belts, an added source of revenue is very appealing.

Those who support the fees note that crash taxes ensure that those who are responsible for Florida car accidents contribute to the costs of the accidents. Supporters also note that such fees increase city revenues while reducing the burden on the tax payer. Further, there have been claims made that such fees would add to the financial burden of at-fault drivers, making drivers more cautious on the roads. Opponents of the fees note that insurance companies would pass the costs of the fees to insurance holders, potentially raising insurance costs for all drivers – not just those who cause accidents. They also note that such a move might not help reduce Florida pedestrian accident and car accident rates.