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July 24, 2014

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Public Safety:

Winners, losers in Metro’s new wreck policy

Image

Steve Marcus

A Metro Police officer stands by a van after an accident involving a school bus in the northbound lanes of Eastern Avenue between Tropicana and Harmon avenues Monday, January 10, 2011.

Metro Police’s policy change concerning fender benders can be summed up in three words — fend for yourself.

Here’s the gist of the new policy, which went into effect March 3: Las Vegas officers will no longer respond to non-injury fender benders, but police will continue responding to injury accidents, hit-and-run accidents and collisions involving uncooperative motorists or suspected drunken drivers.

Police say the slimmed-down service is a way to free up traffic officers’ time to focus on preventing deadly accidents.

The announcement, like any policy change, didn’t appease everyone. In a follow-up news conference, Metro leaders reiterated the intent of the change — saving resources to save lives — and cited San Francisco and San Diego as other police departments that do not respond to such accidents. Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles don’t, either.

Metro’s decision isn’t even unique to Nevada. The Reno Police Department doesn’t send officers to minor fender benders.

So what does this decision really mean for Las Vegas motorists? Who’s affected and how?

Here’s a rundown of the winners and losers under the new policy. The most obvious winners: those who avoid fender benders.

WINNERS

• Bad drivers: With no cops on the scene, it will be more difficult for the innocent victim to prove his or her case that it was the other driver’s fault.

• Metro Police (and the rest of us): More officers will be chasing down criminals and reckless drivers to keep our neighborhoods safe.

• Ill-willed drivers: It will be easier for impaired drivers to get off the hook if other drivers involved in an accident either don’t notice their intoxication or don’t report them to police.

• Henderson and North Las Vegas motorists: Police in Henderson and North Las Vegas will continue responding to fender benders. If you’re involved in a minor accident and are unsure which jurisdiction you’re in, call 311 for information.

LOSERS

• Insurance companies: Incomplete or fraudulent information exchanged by motorists involved in fender benders could prove to be a headache for auto insurers.

• Las Vegas drivers: The policy change’s effect on insurance companies could lead to higher insurance rates, but Nevada Division of Insurance officials say it’s too early to tell. Any rate changes must be approved by the division.

• Good drivers: Innocent drivers involved in fender benders must now take enough photos and videos of the scene, get names of witnesses and exchange information with the other driver in order to have enough documentation to get insurance companies to cover the accident.

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