The Labor Day weekend is almost here and you're hitting the road for one last blast of summer fun. You've tuned up your car, plotted your route and have a little extra cash on hand to pay any potential crash taxes.
Crash taxes aren't new. They've been around for years, but are showing up in new locales as communities struggle in this tough economy.
Drivers, understandably, hate them. If they live in the area, then they're already being taxed to pay for police, fire department and ambulance services.
So, some places have limited the accident charges to out-of-town drivers who are involved in accidents. Still others, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, only target at-fault drivers or accidents that involve fires or spill cleanups.
I understand that approach. Why should a local politician tick off someone who could vote him out of office. That at-fault approach, however, could leave some room for arguments.
The truth of the matter, though, is that most places don't send the bill to the drivers. Rather, it's the insurance companies that get it.
And that, say crash tax opponents, is just as bad, because it gives insurance companies event more incentive to raise auto insurance rates.
Not surprisingly, California is at the forefront of this latest love affair with crash taxes. Nearly 40 local governments in California have either enacted or are considering such fees.
Sacramento city officials will debate a crash tax ordinance later this month. It's proposed fees would range from $435 for basic accident scene work to $2,275 for airlifting a wreck victim to a hospital.
If California's capital city does enact crash taxes, it would become the largest city in the country to pass such a fee, and opponents worry that would be enough to encourage other cities to do the same.
Some states, however, don't allow their lower taxing jurisdictions to enact such taxes. Since 2008, according to AccidentResponseFees.com, 10 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee -- have outlawed accident response fees.
Personally, I understand the localities' desire to recoup some of their costs. But sometimes accidents do just happen and as part of civilized society, most cities, counties and their taxpayers have agreed to provide these public services. If they can't cover the costs, they need to do some soul searching budget evaluations rather than tacking on such backdoor taxes.
Have you ever been hit with a crash tax? Do you support them? For everyone involved in a wreck, or just those at fault or who don't live in the area where public money is being spent to deal with the wreck?