Though it hasn’t passed yet, the City of Homewood, the suburb of Birmingham where I live, is considering charging those involved in auto accidents for police and fire assistance at the scene. I’m generally in favor of user fees when it comes to public services, but this is ridiculous and clearly just a ploy to get more revenue for one of the richest municipalities in the state. If taxes were reduced by the amount raised from such fees, I would have less of a problem with this proposal, but that won’t happen. If we’re going to pay taxes for police and fire service, then we should at least get police and fire service in areas where such services are justified such as at the scene of accidents. To charge extra, and thereby discourage use of such services, for doing the job that we already pay them for is even more ridiculous than the selective taxation of parking and traffic citations that Homewood police officers are particularly adept at.
Further, if fees are to be charged, it’s unclear why such services have to be performed by public police and fire departments. For example, insurance companies could contract with hospitals and emergency response firms (ambulance companies) to be first responders for their policyholders with the cost added into insurance premiums. State law, which requires auto insurance anyway, could also require that such private first responders would have to aid any motorist involved in an accident, so that the poor would not be excluded. Such an arrangement could also include, along with emergency response teams, an independent, private accident investigation team. Of course, this approach would mean fewer dollars for Homewood.
Tip o’ the Gatsby to my Dad.