Beginning on July 1, 2011, New York City will impose a so-called “accident tax” or “crash tax” on motorists because the city’s fire department, the largest municipal fire department in the United States, “can no longer afford to provide” emergency services “at no cost to those who require them.”
Although FDNY will hold a public hearing on the chares on January 14, and has said it will consider the input of the citizenry, the change does not require the approval of the city council and already had the support of the FDNY commissioner, Sal Cassano, as well as that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
According to the proposed schedule of charges, a vehicle fire or other incident with injuries will cost $490. An incident of fire with no injuries will run $415. All other incidents without fire or injuries will be charged at the rate of $365. The fees will be assessed on each vehicle involved in the accident.
A spokesman for the FDNY, Steve Ritea, said, “We want to relieve pressure on the taxpayer and place it on those at fault and [on] their insurance. Right now if you’re at fault at an accident or a vehicle fire, you get a free ride. And that should not be borne by the taxpayers.”
Ritea said the department will exercise discretion over the billing. “If we’re talking about an act of God situation, a tree falls on [a] car, then we have discretion, obviously not to bill in those cases. If the accident is exceedingly minor, we show up on [the] scene and nobody needs medical assistance and there’s no fire or anything like that, then, we have discretion.”
Ordinance of this kind have drawn widespread condemnation in other municipalities across the United States, but more and more cash-strapped local governments are turning to such measures out of budgetary desperation. Last year, the FDNY responded to approximately 14,000 vehicle incidents, with 2,900 of those involving fires. Without question, the taxes involved represent considerable revenue for the department.