Californians Oppose Accident Response Surcharges

September 28, 2010

Californians overwhelmingly oppose efforts by some cities to charge for fire and police response to traffic accidents, a new poll has found. Only 21 percent supported the concept of emergency response fees, while 50 percent opposed the idea of cities charging fees to respond to traffic accidents, according to a poll commissioned by the Insurance Information Network of California. Twenty-six percent were undecided.

Opposition to the fees increased when respondents were told that cities typically billed drivers’ insurance companies to collect the charges. When asked whether they support or oppose the idea of insurers being charged accident fees, 62 percent said they opposed the idea while 29 percent supported it. Respondents also rejected the idea of making accident response fees a covered insurance peril, which could cause insurance costs to rise.

Reaction to the questions mirrored statewide results in areas where local agencies are either considering or have instated the fee collection programs, IINC said.

“Accident response fees” have garnered statewide attention this year as budget-strapped cities have attempted to recoup fire and police costs by charging drivers for response to accident scenes, IINC explained. Cities typically contract with third-party collection agencies, which bill drivers’ insurance companies. However, the fees are not universally covered under typical California auto insurance policies.

Cities considering the fees have faced a backlash by residents and local businesses. This month, Huntington Beach city officials cited bad publicity as they acted to rescind the city’s accident fee program only one month after approving it.

“It’s clear that the public does not believe that budget shortfalls should be filled by charging motorists for emergency services,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller. “The prospect of insurance costs rising to routinely cover these fees only increases their opposition.”

The poll of 800 likely voters across the state was conducted for IINC by Public Opinion Strategies September 12 to 15. The poll has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

Source: IINC

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