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City of Atlanta paid out more than $3M for car wrecks in 4 years

The City of Atlanta has had to deal with nearly 730 injury and property damage claims related to car accidents since 2008. The city has settled most of the cases for a total of more than $3.27 million, a huge expense that is frequently due to police officers and other municipal employees injuring private citizens in collisions.

Atlanta police were involved in about 40 percent of the collisions. Though the Atlanta Police Department tries to teach its recruits to drive safely, officers frequently get into car accidents, sometimes causing serious harm. In one case, a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a squad car suffered severe injuries to her spine, face and ribs. She sued the city and received a $405,000 settlement to pay for her medical and other costs.

However, the majority of city-related accidents involved public employees driving city-provided vehicles or unsafe road conditions. The Department of Watershed Management is one of the major offenders. Employees were involved in about 130 crashes per year in 2008 and 2009. Since requiring employees to take a defensive driving course and installing a board to review accidents, the department has seen a decrease in accidents.

One major cause of these accidents appears to be employees committing distracted driving, for example using their cell phones behind the wheel. The City Council recently passed an ordinance allowing public employees to be fired if they cause an accident while distracted by their phone.

These safety measures will hopefully reduce the number of dangerous accidents, which have become a major problem in Atlanta.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, " Atlanta vehicle crashes cost taxpayers millions in settlements," Jeremiah McWilliams, Nov. 2, 2012

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