City explains policies, cost of employee-involved car crashes

It happens hundreds of times a year and can end up costing the city a lot of money. 

At least two city vehicles were involved in crashes this week. So, what happens to the drivers involved and how does the city try to prevent further crashes? 

The City of Albuquerque’s Risk Management Department oversees all vehicular claims involving city vehicles, including both crashes caused by employees and crashes where employees aren’t at fault. 

Risk Manager Peter Ennen tells KRQE News 13 that it’s common to see a few city-owned rigs involved in wrecks each week. 

“A couple of accidents in a couple of days is not really out of the ordinary,” said Ennen, who says roughly 350 to 400 crashes involving city vehicles are reported to Risk Management each year.

VIEW: City of Albuquerque Risk Management Claims, Costs Graph »

The city has a high volume of both authorized drivers and city vehicles, according to Ennen, who’s Risk Management team deals with the investigation and financial liabilities of each crash. 

“The city is self-insured, so, we deal with everything right here in this office,” said Ennen. 

In all, about 5,000 city employees and volunteers are authorized to drive the city’s estimated 3,500 vehicles. 

This week, an APD cruiser was involved in a crash with another car in the middle of a city intersection.

A Sun Van was also involved in a minor head-on crash Wednesday morning.

Ennen tells KRQE News 13 that each authorized city driver must have a valid New Mexico license without any revocations in the last three years. All city drivers must get department approval and go through training before they have the OK to drive a city rig.

If there’s a crash in a city vehicle, Ennen says the driver will face up the consequences.

“People are held accountable for the way they operate vehicles here,” said Ennen. 
That accountability following a crash starts with a crash report written by Albuquerque Police. An additional incident report must by the involved city employee’s supervisor, Ennen says. 

“We review the accident and determine with a set of guidelines we use whether it was preventable on the part of our driver,” said Ennen. 

Drivers crashes are tracked in the city’s database with a point system. If a city employee is found to be at fault and racks up too many points, that employees can lose their privileges. 

But the city says ideally, a loss of privileges doesn’t happen through the points system too often because of early intervention systems that are in place. 

“We catch people before they get near the point level and we do something about it,” said Ennen. 

More often, Ennen says city employees lose their driving privileges for off-work reasons including medical issues or trouble with the law. The city runs weekly reports with the MVD on every single authorized driver to monitor any off-duty driving incidents. 

“We know who’s having accidents and we take action about it,” said Ennen. 

Risk management data shows over the last four years, the city has spent an average of about 2.5 million dollars each year paying out auto claims. That money gets replenished each year with the city budget. 

One of the city’s largest auto claims was worth more than $8-million from a crash caused by former Albuquerque Police officer Adam Casaus.

Casaus’ patrol car hit another car, killing passenger Ashley Browder.

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