A move which could leave drivers responsible for major crashes on Taranaki roads with a cleanup bill from the NZ Transport Agency has been welcomed by a trucking group.
It was revealed yesterday a Napier woman was charged $1300 for the costs associated with a crash that nearly killed her daughter.
Within days of leaving hospital, the 19-year-old's family was told they had a month to pay the cost of contractors, traffic control and cleanup for the four hours the road was closed last year.
The move has surprised insurance companies but is supported by truckers.
Road Transport Association regional manager Tom Cloke said that it was only fair those responsible for a crash paid up.
"Why should other road users have to front the costs, especially when it's clear who is in the wrong," he said.
NZTA Highways and Network Operations general manager Colin Crampton said the practice was not new and applied to the whole country.
"When a driver is at fault in a crash and the crash causes damage to roadside equipment and signage on the state highway network, those costs need to be recovered. We can either seek to recover the costs from the individual responsible for causing the damage, or we can charge all road-users and taxpayers for the damage.
"This is the same principle which applies when a driver at fault in a crash causes damage to any property. They, or their insurance companies, are liable for the costs of repair."
Mr Crampton said that each regional office used discretion and looked at each case on its own merits.
"One factor influencing the decision is the extent of the damage incurred," he said.
"We know that when people are involved in a road crash it's a terrible situation for them and for their family, and we always try to be as careful as possible not to add to that stress.
"So it's important, for example, that we think carefully about when it is appropriate to seek costs and how long to wait after a crash has occurred before seeking to recover costs."
Mr Cloke said costs should be paid by those responsible.
"This is something we have done for years and I don't think it should be taken out of [national] funds because of mistakes made by others.
"The costs of an accident, especially in remote areas, can become very, very huge."
He said trucking companies already had insurance to cover the cleanup of crashes and car drivers should be able to cover it the same way.
However, on Monday, Insurance Council insurance manager John Lucas told Fairfax he had never heard of such a charge, but it would now be the topic of their meeting next month.
Yesterday, AA Motoring Affairs general manager Mike Noon said that he, like many members of the public would be, was surprised that the NZTA could claim for the costs.
"The public might expect to cover costs if they hit a traffic light but I'm not sure the public understand they could be liable for the costs of a cleanup."
Mr Noon said it highlighted the need for insurance. He believed third party insurance should cover those associated costs if the driver was legally responsible.
Mr Cloke said if drivers knew they could have to cover a six-figure cleanup bill, their road habits would change.
"It may see a turnaround to those who continually have bad driving practices and are constantly costing our nation.
"If you drive fast you now have another cost to pay."
In Canterbury 55 bills had been sent out in the past two years.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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