The rate of 33 percent is basically unchanged since 1994, according to the institute.

Insurers Groups Fighting 'Crash Taxes'

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and a California affiliate have created Web sites to help motorists battle local taxes assessed when emergency vehicles respond to a crash scene.

Two related property and casualty insurer groups have created Web sites and posted a whitepaper urging motorists to fight fees imposed by local governments, notably in California, on victims of traffic accidents to which emergency vehicles respond. The sites by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and its affiliated Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) say the "crash taxes" are unfair. If the driver who pays them lives in the jurisdiction, he or she is taxed twice because local taxes already pay for emergency services. And if not, the driver is being taxed without representation in that jurisdiction, the groups argue.

"It's unfortunate that local governments, like many of us, are adversely affected by the deep recession. But it is unfair and unwise for local governments to victimize motorists in accidents twice by taxing them for sending emergency vehicles. This is a basic service of government, and motorists shouldn’t have to pay twice for it," said Sam Sorich, president of ACIC.

The sites are virtually identical. Both www.calcrashtax.com/ and www.accidenttax.com/ provide an overview of the taxes, media reports, and a Q&A section. This section indicates cities in 26 states have implemented or entered into contracts with collection services to charge a fee when police or fire units are dispatched to a traffic accident. Visitors can sign up at the sites for updates on these taxes, and the PCIA site helps them contact local newspapers to encourage coverage of the issue.

According to ACIC, these nine states have banned local governments from imposing crash taxes: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Florida.

PCIA's "Accident Response Fees: Say 'No' to double taxation and higher insurance premiums" is available here. Its conclusion says, in part: "Accident response fees are not an equitable distribution of the costs of emergency services related to auto accidents. . . . Although many local governments are struggling to find the money to pay for services which they are expected to perform, these revenues should not come from those involved in auto accidents. Requiring payment from anyone who recently experienced a traumatic crash is unconscionable; it literally and figuratively adds insult to injury. During this time of economic hardship, the public should not be overburdened with having to pay additional charges for emergency responses to traffic accidents when property taxes and local income taxes are already being used to pay for these services."

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