Times are tough all over, even at the historically high-tone FDNY, where the fire poles are coated with gold, and all hoses spray Veuve Clicquot. To cope with the grinding budget crunch, the department has announced that starting in July it will start charging drivers $490 to respond to a crash or car fire involving injuries, $415 for a car fire without injuries and $365 for a basic crash without injuries. These charges will apply to every driver involved in the incident. What’s next, charging fifty bucks to kiss the Dalmatian?
“We are in a tight budget situation,” FDNY spokesman Steve Ritea tells the Daily News. “We wanted to relieve pressure on the taxpayer and place it on those at fault and their insurance companies. If there’s an act of God, if a tree falls on your car, the Fire Department has discretion. The intent here is to go after the insurance of motorists who are at fault.” Of course, there is a slight chance that the insurance companies might catch on to this and pass these costs onto motorists. “If insurers were to start providing coverage for additional accident response services, including police and fire, the cost of auto insurance would be likely to increase,” predicts Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute.
The FDNY’s new policy follows in the footsteps other municipalities across the country which are charging drivers for emergency assistance, and even charging homeowners when they put out fires. The FDNY spokesman says the department isn’t “currently” considering going that far. The city will also start charging private hospitals as much as $1 million a year for hospital ambulances dispatched by the city’s 911 system, the Journal reports. At a press conference yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg showed his willingness to play hardball with the hospitals, telling reporters, “They like these ambulances to pick up patients because that’s the way they fill the beds. If they don’t want to have the patients in their hospitals, they won’t get ’em.”
A spokesman for AAA called the calls the crash tax “short-sighted,” telling the Journal, “We have concerns that some motorists might be less likely to call police to crash scenes, allowing drunk drivers, uninsured drivers, drivers with suspended licenses, and others to go undetected.” But the best quote comes from Queens resident Homer J. Simpson Barret Ramnath, who declares, “That sucks. Accidents happen, and you can’t be held responsible.”