Crash ID system aims to save taxpayers money

Tags identify who was involved in a crash, so they can be billed.
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Eyewitness News has learned a state crackdown is forcing drivers to pay a lot more money when they crash their cars.

Some drivers are now facing bills that are thousands of dollars higher. It's about shifting the burden from the taxpayer to the people who cause the damage.

When a car smacks a guardrail or strikes a cable barrier on the highway, it costs us all money - to fix state and local property that's bent, busted, even burned.

But who pays?

"The taxpayer, right out of highway funds," said a driver on I-65 in Boone County.

Actually, that's happening a lot less nowadays, thanks to the Damage Wise program put together by Purdue University traffic engineers, police and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Under the old way of doing things, the INDOT crew who showed up to fix a sign broken in an accident had no idea which driver hit the sign. The state often had to pick up the full repair cost.

Now, Boone County Deputy Tom Melville shows us the new kit he's packing.

It's basically a tag bag. Deputy Melville unzipped it and described the contents.

"It has the tag, it has two ways you can attach it to whatever is damaged," he demonstrated.

So the crew out fixing a guardrail will find the attached tag with the police case number printed right on it.

With that number, INDOT can now trace the accident report, get the driver's insurance company and ship them the bill for repairs.

"We're looking to build and maintain our transportation system at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers," said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

With the new tag bag system, INDOT is recovering 85 percent of its repair costs.

Insurance companies pay much of that, but if the driver has no insurance, Wingfield says, "we bill the driver directly.

Even if you have insurance, you're still responsible for the deductible. But drivers Eyewitness News talked with on I-65 today like the idea.

"Unless it's an accident, like a deer jumping out in front of you, it's your fault. It's your fault," said Dwayne Westphal.

"I think a person should be responsible for what they tear up. If I broke something, I should fix it," said Lampton Liddell.