On Jan. 27, the Sacramento City Council voted to implement a “crash tax” on non-residents who are at fault in an automobile accident within Sacramento city limits.
This one-time fine will be used to offset the cost of the Sacramento Fire Department (SFD) response to accidents. This fee starts at $495 for a typical wreck and could increase to $2,275 depending on the size and severity of the accident. Insurance companies will decide who is liable for the charges.
The City Council passed the measure to help the SFD recover funds lost through accident response. According to SFD Chief Ray Jones, these recovered costs will keep departments from closing. A crash tax, however, is not the right way to keep fire departments open. This added fee is not the right way to address the problem.
It is the responsibility of the local government to keep public services, like fire departments, open. Forcing out-of-towners to pay for fire department costs brings up a glaring question of how Sacramento spends.
The added fee is also incredibly unfair to those who do not live or own a business within the city limits. Forcing these non-residents to possibly pay a hefty fine just because they don’t live in Sacramento is unreasonable. Many of the people who commute to Sacramento already spend money on businesses within the city, contributing to its economy.
Jones said none of the stations would turn a profit from the fine.
UC Davis students commuting to and through Sacramento should not have to worry about another bill waiting for them at home. If the city is forced to charge a crash tax because it can’t even pay for the fire department, it might as well implement tolls for entering and exiting the city.
Another fault with the new policy is the manner in which billing is issued. Because auto insurance companies have yet to add a plan to cover these fees, those who are forced to pay the crash tax will have to pay for it 100 percent out of pocket. If an individual doesn’t have insurance, however, the fee will be billed to the SFD and said person won’t have to pay the fine. This penalizes responsible drivers simply because they have insurance.
Trying to find ways to help its already cash-strapped budget can be seen as admirable. A crash tax, however, is by no means the right way for Sacramento to fix its irresponsible budgeting choices.