NU Online News Service, Dec. 10, 3:16 p.m.EST

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Count New York City among a growing number of municipalities inthe United States looking to make up for budget constraints byseeking to charge motorists involved in an accident if they needthe fire department.

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The city plans to charge motorists close to $500 if the city'sfire department has to come to their aid.

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From the insurance industry's perspective, the practice istantamount to "double-taxation," and many times, insurance policiesdo not cover the so-called "accident tax."

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Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines for the PropertyCasualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said he understandswhy municipalities are looking for alternate sources of revenue,but the accident tax, also known as the crash tax, is "a back-doorapproach often driven by vendors in exchange for a cut of theproceeds."

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New York Insurance Association President Ellen Melchionni saidinsurance premiums would increase if companies were required to payfor the accident tax.

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"This is an unfair fee," she said. "We already pay for theseservices in taxes."

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The New York City Fire Department will hold a hearing on thefees next month, but it is not clear whether they need approvalfrom the city council to begin assessing the accident tax on July1.

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Calls and an e-mail to the FDNY were not immediatelyreturned.

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Ms. Melchionni said the department plans to charge $490 torespond to a vehicle fire or any other incident with injuries. Avehicle fire without injuries will cost the auto owner $415, andthe department will charge $365 to get to the scene of incidentswithout a fire or injury.

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Reports have said the accident tax is aimed at those responsiblefor the accidents.

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Mr. Passmore and Ms. Melchionni each called the proposalconfusing because it does not outline how, or by whom, a driver isdeemed at-fault.

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The practice has been banned or at least limited in 10 states,Mr. Passmore said. Many times the tax is introduced and implementedonly to be withdrawn once citizens react.

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Mr. Passmore said it would be unfortunate for those involved inaccidents to think twice about calling emergency services, knowingthey'll be charged. But that may not matter. Mr. Passmore wascalled to take part in a story out of Chicago, in which a man wascharged $200 for an ambulance to come to the scene of a scooteraccident he was in. But he never called; a witness did.

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