The crash tax (5×8 – 4/20/11)

Charging out-of-towners for accidents, computers in cars, the law of orbital coincidences, the Starburst prom dress, and when people do good.


Should people who don’t live in your city be charged extra because the cops, firefighters, and paramedics you pay for through your taxes have to respond to traffic accidents? It’s a novel idea being considered in West St. Paul and South St. Paul to try to make a little more money for cities. It costs money to “roll the equipment,” and some communities — especially those with paid on-call responders — charge everyone for services rendered, but this proposal targets out-of-towners. A person involved in an accident would be charged about $577, the Star Tribune reports. That apparently would be paid for through a driver’s insurance, although some insurance companies refuse to pay and those that do say it’ll increase the cost of insurance.

There are plenty of questions, however. What if an out-of-towner was minding his/her own business when he/she got T-boned by a local resident? What is the incentive not to respond to accidents that might not actually require $577 worth of work?

Ten states have already banned the crash tax, according to NPR. But it has its supporters. Take a commenter on a recent NPR story, for example:

People are whiners about this, but if you think about it it makes sense. If you cause a crash you are creating a public burden, which you should pay for. I would even support applying this to in-town people. Why charge this to the general taxpayer when you can charge it to the specific problem drivers? That’s fairer.

Out-of-towners should pay extra for the emergency services they require.Market Research


Do they have the potential of taking distracted driving to a new level?

If you’ve got one of these spiffy new models, give us your review, preferably not while you’re driving.

Related: An Eden Prairie woman is being charged with felony criminal vehicular operation for allegedly texting when she ran into a motorcyclist, the Strib reports. The motorcyclist says the woman never looked up.


It’s not all that often we get to see the International Space Station directly over Minneapolis – St. Paul. This week has afforded several opportunities. Tonight, for example, it’ll be visible from 09:05:02 pm to 09:07:27, 76 degrees above the west southwest horizon. Tomorrow night from 09:30:17 pm to 09:32:30 pm, 34 degrees above the western horizon, and Friday evening from 08:19:39 pm to 08:22:04 pm, 72 degrees above the west southwest horizon, before disappearing again.

“While the ISS constantly circles Earth, it’s only visible just after sunset or just before sunrise; at other times of day it’s outshone by the sun, or cloaked by Earth’s shadow,” Wired Magazine reports. “Thanks to orbital coincidences, this week’s flybys will be exceptionally bright.”


It worked out well that the River Falls high school prom theme this year is “Candyland,” seeing as how Kerrin Frey went to the trouble of making her daughter’s prom dress out of Starburst candy wrappers. She said she got the idea from another mother who she saw weaving gum wrappers during their children’s hockey matches, KARE reported.

It turns out, however, it’s been done before — by this woman in 2009:

This Iowa teen made her dress out of gum wrappers:

And this one made a Starburst “formal” dress in 2008:

The next challenge. A Hershey Bar wrapper dress, perhaps. With almonds. Please. I’ll do my part to help out.

Or you can do it the old-fashioned way.


Allen Erickson, who has an incurable brain tumor, has been a hospice patient for more than a year. One of the former pilot’s last wishes: to fly one more time. Brad Swenson, a Willmar paramedic, social worker Judie Dunlop, and pilot Brad Louwagie made it happen. “They can’t do it by themselves,” Swenson told the West Central Tribune. “We do it because it’s their last wish. It gives them a chance to do one last thing. For us, this gives something back to the community.”

(Come on, people. You know someone doing good. Let’s make this a more regular 5×8 category. Tell me about it.)


The Texas TV station has now posted the full interview its reporter conducted with President Obama this week. The reporter was criticized by some after the president complained about the interview (I wrote about this yesterday).



Minnesota legislators have proposed a law to deny driver’s licenses to high school dropouts. The sponsors say their goal is to give young people one more reason to stay in school. Today’s Question: What do you think of linking school attendance and driving privileges?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Battling for Libya, from military strikes to humanitarian relief.

Second hour: Jacqueline Novogratz discusses social entrepreneurship

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: St. John’s University economist Louis Johnston on the controversy over raising the debt limit.

Second hour: Veterinarian Kate An Hunter and her dog, Ansel, in studio to answer pet care questions from the MPR audience.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin considers the Republican presidential field.

Second hour: The world of online gambling.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – High school seniors have a big decision to make in the next few weeks: where to go to college. May 1 is the deadline for students to respond to their college acceptance letters. MPR’s Tim Post will have the story.

A music journalist gets an unusual request to write a bio for a band. He’s asked to do it without hearing any of the group’s music, or knowing anything about them. The result? A fictitious press release, and some in the media take the bait. NPR looks at why the publicity stunt worked.

  • paul J

    Why am I driving in your city? Did I come there to get in an accident? Or did I come to shop in your shiny malls, see a show in your fancy theaters, or take in a sporting event or a concert at your massive stadiums? Would your city prefer that I not do those things and just stay away?

    Is it OK if I just use the airport once in a while? Maybe I can use public transit to get there from outstate so I don’t have to drive….. oh, wait….

  • The Crash Tax is a full-employment program for lawyers.

  • JackU

    #1 – I have always contended that one of the reasons to have Local Government Aid (LGA) is for this very reason. While I pay for services in St Paul/Ramsey County with my property taxes, I work in Minneapolis, shop in several other metro locations and travel about the state for a variety of reasons. Some of my general fund taxes should go to communities in the state to help cover their costs, just as some of the general revenue taxes paid by the hockey fan from Brooklyn Center goes to help pay for the costs of keeping St Paul safe and reasonably repaired for them when the come to see the Wild play.

    This works for the real “out of towners” as well since the sales taxes they pay on what they buy here goes into the general fund, some of which goes to LGA.

  • Dennis

    20 years ago I looked into this for our department. Big legal problem only charging out-of-towners. Insurance companies all said they will gladly pay to keep the scene secure and prevent further damage.Its part of your premium. Lately they have cried it would increase premiums, but no one in our city has seen increases from that..just the regular annual increase you’ll get anyway. Having a set charge for use of fire trucks and personnel is huge if you need to apply for federal aid from storms etc. without it they will question any charges you submit for reimbursement. We charge for the truck, materials used to secure the scene, and extrication if needed.

  • Jon

    Will My crash in your home town be nullified by your crash in my home town?

    Also if there is a crash tax, what is the drive to fix dangerous stretches of road, or put up stop lights, etc.

  • Jennifer

    As someone who has been in a horrific crash (caused by a distracted driver) in a county and city in which I didn’t reside, I think a crash tax is a terrible idea. The situation has been difficult enough to deal with. I couldn’t imagine having to pay for someone else’s negligance on top of everything else.

    Apart from that, there’s another big elephant in the room when it comes to this issue. In my case there was a woman who was killed in the accident. She did not reside in that county, nor did she do anything that caused the crash. Is there anyone who really wants to go on record claiming that the best sound fiscal policy is to send a bill to grieving families?

  • bsimon

    “Should people who don’t live in your city be charged extra because the cops, firefighters, and paramedics you pay for through your taxes have to respond to traffic accidents?”

    Boy, if only there were a mechanism to collect money from the population as a whole & distribute it to Local Governments that required Aid. But then, what would we call it?

  • Duke Powell

    The “crash tax” is not a tax at all. It is used by many Fire Departments in Minnesota and is paid by your auto insurance’s personal injury protection (PIP) piece of your policy.

    PIP will pay up to the first $20,000 of medical expenses for each person – driver or occupant – involved in an auto accident. The cost of this in about $75 a year and is required coverage.

    Emergency Medical Services and hospital emergency rooms count on PIP as a reliable payor.

    Fire Departments who respond to accidents do so as EMS first responders. They assist ambulance personnel in treatment of the injured. They also serve as a valuable blocking function that protects police, EMS and those involved from on-coming traffic. Walking around on a highway is dangerous. Having a fire truck strategically placed to shield public safety workers is very important.

    Fire Departments play an important role in Emergency Medical Services. Their presence is costly. Billing insurance for their services is more than reasonable and is something that they already should be doing.

    As for only billing non-residents, it seems to me that residents are already paying for fire service thru their local property taxes.

  • kennedy

    People doing good:

    A friend of mine recently helped a neighbor. The neighbor is a recently divorced single father with custody of his 4 children. The single father is in the midst of some legal issues with his neighbor. There is an older (over 60) man who is accused of predatory behavior targeting the single father’s 14 year old daughter. The cas is in criminal court. The single father wants to move away to protect his daughter, but can’t because he is underwater on the house. Since he couldn’t leave, he wanted a fence but couldn’t afford it.

    My friend organized a neighborhood effort to pay for and build a fence between the two properties. A small measure of security considering the stakes involved, but much appreciated.

  • JOhn P.

    I suppose the crash tax is a convenient way for politicians to avoid responsibility. It does nothing to actually lower the cost of running emergency services, so everyone just pays for it through crash fees or insurance premiums instead of property taxes.