The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the Nevada Trucking Assn. (NTA) are warning truck drivers in the Las Vegas area to be wary of deliberate attempts by criminals to cause accidents for the purpose of collecting insurance money.

The group said that as many as 100 suspected staged accidents occurred along the I-15 corridor through the metropolitan Las Vegas over the past 12 to 18 months and as many as 25 of those accidents targeted big rigs.

Frank Scafidi, NICB’s director of public affairs, told Fleet Owner that one of the main concerns regarding those “staged” crashes in Las Vegas is that it may signal the start of a broader trend across the U.S.

“The chances are with these kinds of crimes is that if it’s happen in one area of the country, it’s probably occurring in another area as well,” he said.

[To watch a video report about this type of crime, click here.]

He added that the NICB is working closely with its member companies, the Nevada Insurance Council, the Nevada Highway Patrol, and the Nevada Attorney General’s office to try and track down the organizers of such “staged accident” schemes.

Paul Enos, NTA’s president, told Fleet Owner that criminals may view tractor-trailers as “valuable targets” due to the mandated levels of insurance they must carry.

“Generally, the level of insurance required is much higher than for a Mercedes or Lexus luxury car; thus they [the criminals] seem to see trucks as a bigger ‘pot of gold,’” he explained.

The problem is that “staging” any type of accident on the highway is dangerous to everyone in its proximity – a danger that rises exponentially when 80,000 lbs. tractor-trailers are involved, stressed NICB’s Scafidi.

Sadly, some of the people being recruited participate in these “staged” crashes are often not even aware of what’s going on, noted Trooper Loy Hixson of the Nevada Highway Patrol.

“Some of those 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,” he said. “Our real concern is that we do not want innocent lives to be lost.”

NTA’s Enos pointed out that there’s often little truck drivers can do in terms of avoiding such “staged” crashes as they develop very quickly. “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,” he said.

Yet the most potent defense against such crimes is in the post-accident gathering of information – especially photographs of the participants, the vehicles, and the accident scene, he said.

“Document, document, document,” Enos stressed. “Gather much information as possible and providing it to law enforcement and insurance companies.”

NICB’s Scafidi added that the growing use of in-cab video recording systems provides and even more potent defense against such “staged” accident schemes.

“Video cameras in the cab provide great evidence – especially if they are mounted high up to provide a commanding view of the event,” he said. “This provides another piece of protection to the driver and the trucking company.”

NTA’s Enos also hopes that by spreading the word about the types of staged accidents occurring in the Las Vegas area can deter similar crimes from occurring elsewhere in the country.

“The people behind these staged accidents are criminals, preying on trucking companies and endangering our drivers and the public,” he said. “Our hope is that by shining a light on this illegal activity that these criminals will scurry back to their holes like cockroaches.”