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Concerns about online crash reporting

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Updated: 10/25/2013 11:37 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thousands of minor traffic accidents occur on local roads each year, and drivers waste thousands of hours waiting around for police to write a simple report.

Now, the Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles has a website that lets drivers file their own crash reports online within 10 days, with no officer needed.

Attorney Eric Friday said the program is good in theory, saving time for drivers and police, but he has many legal concerns.

"This has bad idea written all over it. It has good intentions, but I think it's going to lead to a lot of potential for abuse."

Crashes that qualify that do not warrant police response meet the following criteria:
No injuries
No tow truck required
No intoxicated drivers
No hit and run
No commercial vehicle

"The problem is people don't always realize they have injuries at the scene of an accident. It's also conceivable that somebody could be intoxicated, leave the scene, and then claim they weren't drinking," said Friday.

And what if both parties don't agree on what happened?

"Good question," said Friday. "That could cause headaches down the road."

That was a risk accident victim Gregory Speiss wasn't willing to take Friday, after a fender-bender on Atlantic Boulevard.

"It's an issue of who was at fault and that could affect my insurance. That's definitely a concern and that's why I waited for police to write the report for me."

Speiss waited only 25 minutes, but the Florida Highway Patrol's response time can be much longer.

JSO cut more than 200 officers in the past year due to budget restraints, and now FHP is responsible for all accidents on state roads in Duval County.

The website may help ease officers' workload, but Friday's not convinced the problems will stop there for drivers.

"In most cases it may work fine, but there's going to be abuse. It's going to happen."

Friday said accident victims that choose to file reports online should carefully document the scene.

"Take pictures of the other driver's insurance card and license. Make sure you capture all of the damage to both vehicles, and the surrounding scene, just in case you end up in court. If there's any doubt about what happened, call police and wait for them to write the report. Insurance companies will almost always require you to have one, especially if there's a dispute."

An FHP spokesman tells Action News the website is now active for all minor crashes throughout the state. Department savings as a result of the effort won't be estimated until it can be determined how many drivers utilize the site.

To file an online crash report visit: <http://www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/misc/CrashReport/>

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