Motorists who cause traffic wrecks in the Fallbrook area will soon be subject to a new fee, it was reported today.

The new so-called crash tax is expected to go into effect later this month and will help cover the cost for the time and effort it takes firefighters to clean up accident sites, The North County Times reported.

The North County Fire Protection District, which serves the Fallbrook area, is not the first to adopt such a fee. Similar fees have gone into effect throughout the state in areas where cash-strapped local governments are struggling to balance their budgets.

Insurance companies are the main opponents because they will be billed directly when a customer is found at fault for an accident, according to the Times. At-fault motorists without insurance will not be billed, the Times reported.

Insurers argue the cost is already covered by homeowners who pay property taxes to cover emergency services.

The new fee in Fallbrook is expected to raise $144,000 annually, with individual bills ranging from $435 to $2,100 depending on the severity of the wreck and service required, the Times reported.

The bills "are going to come back to the community in the form of higher rates," Mike Rossman, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, told the newspaper.

So-called crash taxes are banned in several states: Oklahoma, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia.