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COLUMN: Funding restored, staging auto accidents, improving ATV rider conditions

— Staging auto accidents is not only a hazard but increases the no-fault insurance rates as well. Perpetrators of these types of crime file fraudulent insurance claims for fake crash injuries and end up robbing insurance companies. Indeed, just this past weekend, the Syracuse paper reported a detailed story about residents from Utica who filed a false police report, defrauded insurance companies and doctors after reporting fake injuries that totaled more than $1 million. Insurance companies blame this activity as a major reason why no-fault insurance rates are as high as they are in this state. I’m hopeful with increased penalties and creating a penalty that would mean prison time, the perpetrators will think twice before “acting” this one out and putting more lives at risk.

It appears as though, while everyone can agree that this is a problem, how to classify and punish the crime is debatable. The Assembly passed a measure last year, which created a crime of staging an auto accident and so did the Senate. However, the Senate's bill contained harsher penalties and, therefore, the Senate and the Assembly could not come together on an agreed upon bill. Hopefully, these differences will be worked out through the houses so we can pass this legislation because staged accidents are clearly a problem that affects everyone's safety and insurance rates, whether they realize it or not.

ATV rides: leave it to the locals

I sponsor legislation that would allow local municipalities to designate a highway or portion of a highway open for travel by an all-terrain vehicle so riders can gain access to areas or trails adjacent to the highways. ATV trails provide a regional tourism option and great pastime for residents who wish to enjoy our natural bounty. Besides enabling riders to enjoy the great outdoors, ATVs have a significant economic impact on our region.

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