The National Insurance Crime Bureau warned drivers 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 insurance money.
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.
The NICB is working closely with its member companies, the NevadaInsurance Council, the Nevada Highway Patrol, and the Nevada Attorney General's Office to track down the organizers behind these schemes.
In the meantime, concern is growing that this could lead to a deadly accident. According to Trooper Loy Hixson of the Nevada Highway Patrol, some of the people being recruited to ride in the vehicle that pulls in front of a truck and slams on its brakes are not aware of what's going on.
"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. But some of these people 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. Our real concern is that we do not want innocent lives to be lost."
Paul Enos of the Nevada Trucking Association said that trucks are perceived as valuable targets because they carry high levels of insurance. "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."
Michael Geeser of the Nevada Insurance Council urges motorists 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.
In an effort to increase awareness of this issue, NICB has produced public service announcements in English and Spanish for local TV and radio stations.