published Monday, April 7th, 2014

Private company selling Georgia crash records

ATLANTA — Selling car crash reports to a private company has saved time and money according to state officials, but some drivers cite concerns over retrieval costs and privacy.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that for more than four years, the Georgia Department of Transportation has been selling crash reports to Kentucky-based company Appriss, which runs Buycrash.com.

Crash reports are resold online for $11 to drivers, insurers and the media. Some drivers say officers never told them they could get the same report from local authorities for less. State law limits costs associated with retrieving crash reports to the price of making a copy of the report.

Some drivers have said that after their crash, they were handed a card with the responding officer's name that referred them to Buycrash.com.

"The implication was this was a website that was managed and operated or affiliated with the police department," said Alison Nazarowski, who bought a Buycrash.com report after an accident with a taxicab. "It never, ever, ever crossed my mind [that]a privately run company and the police department were making money off it."

The newspaper reported law enforcement agencies are paid between $2 and $5 for each accident report sold online. Aside from local agencies being paid for referring drivers to the site, Georgia Department of Transportation officials said taxpayers are no longer spending about $900,000 annually for the agency to manage and distribute up to 380,000 crash reports.

"We were using state general funds for that," DOT Commissioner Keith Golden said. "Our main goal was to offset the cost. We got rid of about 20 people who handled those reports. This is a true public-private partnership."

Because the crash reports aren't technically public records, personal information isn't redacted. However, Appriss President David Kaelin said the company does redact data from reports that are resold to businesses such as Carfax, and passes along only information about the car -- not the driver -- involved in an accident.

"We are very diligent about how we disseminate that information and recording tremendous amounts of information about who is accessing those records," Kaelin said. He and GDOT officials said the company tracks the Internet Service Protocol addresses of users who are buying the records and stores users' credit card information.

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