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News 2 Investigates: Accident payouts, $5 million

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BATON ROUGE - The streets of Baton Rouge are designed to be shared; and when a city vehicle crashes, taxpayers also share the cost of the settlement.

"We just paid $450,000 for a policeman who got into an automobile accident where he crashed into the back of a person. And I think it's ridiculous," said Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso.

The city-parish writes checks to settle crash disputes regularly because it's self-insured. In the last seven years, the city paid more than $5 million. More than $160,000 dollars for wrecks involving mosquito and animal control. More than $500, 000 paid because of crashes involving DPW crews. More than $330,000 for crashes with fire department vehicles. A WBRZ News 2 Investigation found the agency with the highest tab is the police department, with more than $4 million dollars in payments.

That's why Amoroso wants the city-parish to save some money. Recently, he introduced an ordinance that would require all city workers who drive city vehicles to take a defensive driving class. Fire and police personnel would be exempt since both agencies already have a system in place.

"I think it's ridiculous... we need to do something ...make our drivers more defensive and to make them more responsible on the roads," said Amoroso.

Amoroso wants to take his proposal a step further. He said experts are evaluating if the city should be self-insured, or higher an insurance administrator.

For police, the system is working according to the chief.
"We have discipline policies for accidents," said Carl Dabadie.

"We drive a lot of miles. Last year, we drove more than eleven million miles. We are going to have accidents from time to time. And when we have officers that are in accidents they are disciplined."

The interim police chief also said his officers do a lot on the road.

"I mean they're driving, they are looking for violations, they are monitoring their computer screens. They are listening to the radio for calls that are going out," said Dabadie.

Metro council will be revisiting city worker accident payouts again, on Wednesday, May 22, during a regular council meeting.



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