DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Your tax dollars pay government employees, protects the community and cleans up the streets.
But a 2 NEWS Investigation found thousands of those dollars are being paid out every year in Dayton because of accidents caused by city employees.
2 NEWS Investigates is asking why that is and what can be done to keep those numbers down.
Over the past three years the City of Dayton has paid out more than $200,000 for accidents caused by employees.
We found there’s one department that has more accidents than any other and one woman witnessed that first hand.
“I look over and he’s unconscious, not breathing and about a minute and a half goes by and blood starts coming out of his mouth and he wakes up after paramedics got there,” said Terri Lockhart.
It happened in 2011 but Lockhart remembers the accident that seriously injured her and her fiancé like it was yesterday.
“We got three impacts. The trash truck hit us, and as it knocked us into the oncoming lane, the KinderCare hit us, spun us around and jammed the passenger side up under the trash truck,” said Lockhart
That trash truck belongs to the City of Dayton and the accident was the drivers fault.
The employee got a ticket for not paying attention.
Natalie: “Did the city say anything to you?”
Lockhart: “They didn’t even contact us.”
Terri and her fiancé James sued the City of Dayton for personal injuries.
According to records 2 NEWS Investigates obtained, they were paid out $100,000.
“We expect to be safe on the streets we pay them to take care of,” said Lockhart.
We asked the city what policies are in place once an accident occurs.
They told us an employee is required to report it to their supervisor, and then an investigation follows. If it’s the employees fault they get an oral reprimand or disciplined. The law department handles any claims.
Since the City of Dayton is self insured that $200,000 they’ve paid out in the past three years for the claims came from your tax dollars.
It took months of asking before 2 NEWS Investigates was able to obtain documents from the city showing those payouts.
Once we did, we went through more than 70 records for the past three years.
We noticed a trend. According to the data, the city is three times more likely to pay for accidents of employees who work for one particular department.
Natalie: Public works has more claims than any other department. Why would you say that is?
Fred Stovall: I’d assume it’s from our winter season, especially this last winter. The more that we are one the road the more opportunity we going to have to be in an accident,” said Fred Stovall, the Director of Public Works for the City of Dayton.
Public Works Director, Fred Stovall tells us his department has about 240 people behind the wheel of city vehicles including trash trucks, snow plows, and maintenance trucks.
He admits the likelihood of an accident is very possible, especially in the winter, with how many employees he has on the roads, but he says they take every precaution to keep that number down.
He said he knows what’s at stake.
Fred Stovall: “The city’s liability. We don’t want to waste the tax payer’s dollars by spending those dollars to repair vehicles that we really shouldn’t be damaging.”
Just months ago the city made a change that helped close a loophole that could have more easily allowed dangerous drivers to operate city vehicles.
Before, Stovall said he would do visual checks to see if a driver had a valid license and relied on the honesty of that employee. Now they have a new web based service that gives alerts if an employee’s driver’s license status has changed.
Terri said careless accidents shouldn’t happen in city vehicles.
“If you can’t expect to be safe on the street you pay them to take care of what can you do,” said Lockhart
Stovall admits most of those crashes don’t have to happen.
“Most of the time a good portion of the accidents they are preventable, I will say that, so it’s just reminding our employees to pay attention, be cautious and be aware of the other drivers,” said Stovall.
Stovall said he makes sure his employees know their number one priority is safety.
But he said they do get a lot of people who run into their vehicles as well.
If you would like to see what department has paid out money for accidents in the past three years click here.