SAN DIEGO — A newly released city audit has found City of San Diego employees are responsible for hundreds of crashes, and it’s costing the city millions of dollars in settlement claims.
The audit found that most of the accidents were preventable and points back to training and policies.
Click here to view the audit of the City of San Diego from the Office of the City Auditor.
The audit states the city needs to take more steps to address and prevent unsafe driving by its employees.
The audit investigation found city supervisors rarely review car data, such as speed or seatbelt use, even though it is required by city policy. The city responded in the audit disagreeing. The city’s management team states they are considering a centralized operational review.
The audit found city employees were not held accountable for 39 crashes, because the investigations were never finished. The city agreed, responding they are reviewing and when completed will take the recommended actions.
The audit found new employees are not trained on all required city driving policies, including backing procedures.
The audit states backing is the most common cause of city employee-involved car crashes. The city agreed and said within the past two years have taken to improve training and monitoring of employee driving.
According to the audit, from 2017 to 2021 city employees caused 2,853 crashes, and found 1,458, or 51% were preventable.
These crashes have been costly. From 2017 to 2021 the city paid $31.2 million in liability claims from employee-caused car crashes.
The audit gives an example: in 2021, the city paid $16 million to a woman who got severely injured by a city employee who drove into her while she was riding a motorcycle. The claims are paid out by insurance, then city tax dollars.
The audit found six departments are responsible for most of the preventable car crashes from 2017 to 2021. The police department made up the most with 451 preventable crashes, followed by public utilities with 238. Fire and rescue made up 192 preventable crashes.
San Diego Police Department responded to the preventable crashes in a statement:
“The San Diego Police Department works to ensure officers and department personnel drive safely for their own safety as well as other motorists and pedestrians. SDPD is committed to working with City leadership to make any necessary changes to how we review reports of unsafe driving or crashes that are deemed preventable.
It’s important to note that, unlike other departments, San Diego Police vehicles are on the road 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, increasing the likelihood of collisions. Officers are also required to split their attention while driving between monitoring the radio, operating their computers and paying attention to public safety issues occurring around them. What many may not realize is that officers are not allowed to use their lights and sirens to alert others unless the call is of a certain priority level, however, they are still trying to get to the call as quickly as possible to assist those in need. These variables must be considered as the City and SDPD work toward finding solutions to reducing preventable collisions in the future.”
Consequences for an employee found at fault can include written warnings, a two-hour driving course, or termination. Discipline is based on each incident.