Defensive Driving Resource

Florida Drivers Will Pay for Crashes — Literally!

Threadbare city and county budgets have caused government officials to get very creative in finding more money for their coffers over the last two years. One new revenue source is the implementation of what are known as “Cost Recovery Programs,” “Police Investigation Fees,” or “Service Response Fees.” In layman’s terms, this means that the person responsible for the crash has to shoulder some of the financial responsibility for emergency personnel who respond to the crash.

During the 2008 legislative session, a bill was filed that would not allow cities or counties to charge these fees, but it was withdrawn.

Bradenton, Florida officials have proposed a “Cost Recovery Program” as a means of collecting more dollars from drivers who cause traffic collisions. The funds from this program would go towards the city’s patrol car fund.

According to the Bay News 9 story that reported the Bradenton proposal yesterday, there are 16 other Florida cities or counties which have existing “Cost Recovery Programs” in place.

Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County already has such a program in place. If you cause a collision in Riviera Beach, Florida, you will be charged a $154 Police Investigative Fee. The bill will first be sent to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the insurance company refuses to pay the fee, the city will bill only non-residents. They will not bill city residents.

If you cause a collision in Gulf Breeze or Milton, Florida, where Government Cost Solutions was created to “help fund the high level of quality of police and emergency responses to motor vehicle accidents,” you will pay a “Police and Emergency Service Response Fee,” or “PESR fee” of $265. Once again, city residents will not be billed, as they already pay indirectly for these services through ad valorem taxation.

A recent publication by the Committee on Banking and Insurance, Florida Senate, states: “…the fees range from one hundred to several hundreds of dollars per accident based on the personnel, material and time spent in investigating the crash.” This publication also stated: “In an effort to balance budgets in order to continue vital services and as an alternative to raising taxes, about two dozen counties and cities in the state have begun imposing accident response fees on drivers and their insurers for the delivery of police and fire services including personnel, supplies and equipment to the scene of auto accidents within their jurisdictions.”

Furthermore, the Senate publication states: “Senate professional staff has obtained accident response fee ordinances from four counties (Escambia, Martin, Sumter and Washington) and nine cities (Belleview, Chiefland, Cocoa, Hialeah, Lauderdale Lakes, Longwood, Ocala, West Melbourne and Winter Park).

Seventeen other states have implemented these fees, as well. Insurance companies in some of these states have successfully challenged the imposition of these fees. They cited the “Free Public Service Doctrine” or “Municipal Cost Recovery Rule.”

Five states — Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia — have all banned the imposition of accident user fees.

What does all of this mean for the Florida driver? Or any driver for that matter? Will knowing whether or not you’re going to be charged a service fee for causing a collision cause you to drive more safely? Or, will it just cause more DWLSR’s due to non-payment?

Let us know what you think about this new trend.

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