2014 BMW M235i first drive, Las Vegas Motor SpeedwayEnlarge Photo
When we learned to drive, we were taught that in the event of an accident, we should leave our vehicles just as they were at the time of the collision. Whether we were involved in a wee fender-bender or a major pile-up, we weren't to move our cars, even if they were still driveable.
As we got older, we began seeing signs posted on city freeways, asking motorists to move vehicles to the side of the road when accidents occurred. The implication was that doing so would minimize traffic jams without jeopardizing a police officer's ability to assign fault when he or she arrived on the scene.
In Las Vegas, the city's police department has gone one step further. According to CNN, as of next Monday, March 3, Las Vegas Police will no longer respond to 911 calls about auto accidents unless someone's been injured.
The reason, as you might guess, is that the department is stretched too thin. City officials believe that the 250 hours officers spend responding to traffic accidents each week could be better used on tackling other problems.
And so, they're asking motorists to take matters into their own hands, exchanging information with other drivers, taking photos of the accident, and filing claims. The police say that they'll make exceptions to the new policy if a driver refuses to share her/his insurance details.
This won't be a popular policy -- at least not at first. Some motorists are worried that others involved in accidents will exaggerate details ("Oh, my neck! I think it's whiplash!") or attempt to minimize them ("That little ol' scratch? Shoot, I bet it was there before I rear-ended you!"). And insurance companies could have a hard time sorting out who's at fault.
In the long run, though, this may simply be the way of the future. Las Vegas isn't the only city with such a policy: Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco do, too. Faced with budget cuts and recruitment lags, many departments feel that their officers' time is being frittered away on minor incidents like these instead of serious crimes.
Thankfully, the technology that's available to drivers nowadays may ease Las Vegas' transition. An increasing number of Americans have smartphones, and at the very least, those phones have cameras we can use to document accidents. And apps from major insurers typically offer us a way to file those photos along with a claims report, right from the scene of the accident. It's not a perfect solution, but it's definitely faster than having to wait for an officer to reach you on the freeway.
First, self-driving cars are allowed on Las Vegas streets, and now, its police department wants citizens to handle their own accident reports? Las Vegas is either the old Wild West or Tomorrowland, we can't be sure which.