Honesty On The Road Comes With A Pricetag

September 21, 2010

I can’t figure it out. Is the story on Syracuse.com about the inefficiency of a government bureaucracy or about honesty going wrong – the no good deed goes unpunished twist.

A 2005 Jeep slid on a snow covered road and hit a guard rail on a state road in Mexico, New York. The damage was confined to the plastic bumper and seemed so minor that driver didn’t even report it to her insurance company. From the scene the owner called her husband and he advised her to call the state police.

Fast forward to warmer weather and dry roads, and the lady gets a bill from the DOT of New York for $664.57. The state even broke the charges down to $443.22 in labor for the eight workers who arrived in two trucks and brought along a grader, post digging equipment, and a compressor which were needed to make the repair and to install three nuts and three bolts valued at $1.19. The rest of the bill was for the use of the equipment.

The car owner is confident that the bill will be paid by her insurance company who she thinks is being viewed by the DOT as some low-hanging fruit in the funding of the repair. She considers it “an honesty tax” for doing the right thing. She didn’t even get a ticket from the police officer who investigated the incident.

On a return visit to the scene, the operator also noted other dents from other collisions that were not addressed at the same time and wondered why.

Meanwhile, the DOT of New York says that it is just doing what it does, which is to maintain the roads. To not act on the damage and not charge the appropriate parties would be unfair to other citizens and not fulfill their mandate, according to a DOT spokesperson. As for the other damage, he said those dents were deemed by a DOT inspector to be too minor to repair.

Syracuse.com cited a 2008 statistic that insurers paid the State of New York $9.5 million to repair guardrails that year.

So where do you come down on this debate? Should honesty be discouraged by making it into a bigger hassle than it is worth? Or do 8 workers and 5 pieces of equipment seem like overkill?


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