'Crash Tax' Proposed For Non-Denver Residents

Some Call It A 'Double-Tax'

Imagine paying a fine for getting in a car accident.

That's what the Denver Fire Department and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper are proposing as a way to help balance the city's budget.

The so-called "crash tax" or accident response fee would apply to non-residents who cause accidents on highways within the boundaries of the city and county of Denver.

The fee would essentially average about $300 to $400 for fire response.

Some say it would raise revenue, others say it's a double-tax that would scare visitors away.

"It would seem to me to be a little bit stupid," said Dan Trippie who was visiting from New York and rented a car to get around.

"I think that's outrageous since I already pay taxes to work in Denver," said Ellen Warp, who lives in Wheat Ridge and works in downtown Denver.

The "crash tax" is part of a plan to balance the budget and is scheduled to be discussed by Denver city council members Monday night. However, a spokesman for the mayor's office said it will likely go back to committee for further discussion.

"It's just the cost. There's no fee or anything beyond that. Just the actual cost to the fire department. That's what motorists would be responsible for," said Mayor John Hickenlooper.

The "crash tax" would only apply to non-residents. The mere suggestion arouses ire, especially among visitors and those who work in Denver.

Warp works downtown and pays monthly parking fees among other things.

"Raise your revenue somewhere else. You can't keep taxing the same thing over and over," said Warp.

"We found ourselves turned around last night and almost had an accident," said Trippie.

Some argue that they already pay taxes in part for emergency services.

"People in Denver do. Yeah, and they don't get charged this. So if you live in Denver and you have an accident here, you're not charged this. It's for people from outside the city who are driving through," said Hickenlooper.

Visitor Chris Vigil said that logic makes him less apt to even drive through, let alone stop and spend money in Denver.

"I already pay taxes. I pay insurance. You know, it's probably going to raise insurance fees as well," said Vigil. "It makes no sense."

"That's not a great way to encourage visitors. I would say that," said Trippie.

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Association is opposed to the proposed accident response fee.

A spokeswoman said it's a double-tax and rates could go up because it "opens the flood-gates to higher premiums passed through to consumers."

The fire department would be responsible for collecting the fee.

At least three other fire departments in Colorado have applied a similar fee, including South Adams Fire. A spokesman for that department said the trouble is getting people to pay the invoice.

Eight states have banned accident response fees including Indiana, Alabama and Florida.

The issue goes before Denver city council Monday night, but will likely be pushed back to committee for further discussion.