Deadly Game of Chicken Targets Trucks
As if dodging oblivious four-wheelers who regularly cut too close in front of trucks weren't enough for truck drivers to handle as they navigate down the highway, now commercial drivers are being warned to be alert to motorists who are intentionally hurtling their vehicles into the path of big rigs and slamming on the brakes.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning truckers, especially those traveling in the Las Vegas area, to be on the lookout for criminals targeting trucks in a deliberate attempt to cause an accident for the purpose of collecting a hefty insurance payout. As many as 100 suspected staged accidents along the I-15 corridor through the metropolitan Las Vegas area have been reported to NICB in the past 12-18 months and as many as 25 of those accidents targeted big rig trucks. How much money would it take to make it worthwhile to navigate your car into the path of a 80,000-pound semi? Apparently, the risk is worth the reward for some criminals who perceive commercial trucks as valuable targets since they also carry high levels of insurance, says Paul Enos of the Nevada Trucking Assn. "The people behind these staged accidents are criminals, preying on trucking companies and endangering our drivers and the public," said Enos. "You know when a driver is behind the wheel of something that weighs 80,000 pounds, and someone deliberately slams on the brakes in front of them, that's not going to be a good day for anybody." And what happens in Vegas, in this case, most likely won't stay in Vegas. Frank Scafidi, NICB's director of public affairs, told Fleet Owner magazine that one of the main concerns regarding those staged crashes in Las Vegas is that it may signal the start of a broader trend across the U.S. "The chances are with these kinds of crimes is that if it's happen in one area of the country, it's probably occurring in another area as well," he said. The crooks involved in these staged accident schemes aren't only putting their own, truckers' and other motorists' lives in danger. They are recruiting unwitting passengers in the crash vehicles in hopes of getting an even-higher insurance settlement. "Some of these people (in the crash vehicles) are being recruited from day labor gathering sites and are being told they will be taken to a job site when, in fact, they are being used as victims solely to increase the value of the accident claim," said Trooper Loy Hixson of the Nevada Highway Patrol. The Nevada Highway Patrol became alert to the scams when the same people were involved in different accidents. "In some cases, we are coming across the same people at different accident scenes," said Hixson. "They use different cars and different names, but we collect every bit of information and that's a red flag that these are willing participants being paid to participate." "Our real concern is that we do not want innocent lives to be lost," Hixson said. Michael Geeser of the Nevada Insurance Council urges drivers to report any suspected staged accidents to the Nevada Highway Patrol and to call 1-800-TEL-NICB. Taking photos of all the vehicles and the people involved, as well as getting license plates and information on all the participants will assist law enforcement in the investigation. Anyone with information concerning vehicle theft and insurance fraud can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting our website at www.nicb.org. iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nicb-fraud-tips/id492578733?mt=8 to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.
For a video report on this story, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCNY2dE5eJQ&feature=youtu.be.