Police departments across our area investigate thousands of vehicle crashes per year, and that means a lot of paperwork for accident reports.
Many departments are going digital, saving time, money and the environment.
The Dallas Township police department investigates about 250 crashes per year, but writing up reports and getting them out to people has gotten a whole lot easier.
The department in the Back Mountain has partnered with Carfax for the Police Crash Assistance program, making accident reports available online.
"It eliminates a lot of the secretarial tasks that we were performing prior to. When someone would request an accident report, we would have to physically find it, copy it, send it out in the mail. By utilizing Carfax and automating the system, people can locate the accident report for themselves, download it and print it themselves," said Dallas Township Chief Robert Jolley.
Carfax said police departments spend an average of $35,000 a year manually reproducing accident reports, but electronic reports save time, money and trees.
"Think about it, 250 accidents a year. Reportable accidents are seven to eight pages. Non-reportable accidents are three pages. Do the math, 250 times six, that`s how many pieces of paper we used to go through in a year," said Sergeant Doug Higgins with Dallas Township police.
Reports can be accessed by insurance agencies or those involved in the crash, at www.crashdocs.org.
"If you`re a customer, you just come in here and you can enter the date and the report number and it would pop up," said Sgt. Higgins.
"We’re trying to make it easy for everybody, rather than the old pen and paper way," he added.
The Carfax system also helps officers during investigations, by keeping track of Vehicle Identification Numbers.
"If we’ve had a stolen car recovered and it was in a crash, and we don’t really know where it came from, we can go back and find out where that car actually was. Every time you go get your oil changed, every time you get your tires changed or new tires or get it serviced, it’s recorded through Carfax. So we can track that car all the way back to find previous owners, where it’s been, which to us is a tremendous help," added Higgins.
There is a fee for the Carfax accident report service. Dallas Township police charge $15 and Carfax adds a service fee of $5.50, with $0.50 going toward the Police Chiefs Association, which also helps charitable organizations. The department receives payment each month from Carfax for the accident reports purchased.
"Everyone is moving to the electronic world and it`s just getting us in line with doing business in the same e-commerce way," added Chief Jolley.
Seventeen other police departments across the state participate in the Carfax Police Crash Assistance program, including four others in Luzerne County, as well as departments in Union and Columbia counties.