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Know your towing rights

Being stuck on the side of the road is an unpleasant, and sometimes scary, situation for anyone. This can be even worse if you are stuck because of a crash. The Automobile Association (AA) advises all motorists to be aware of their rights, and in control of events, in such a situation.
“We hear too often of motorists who are involved in crashes and the have their vehicles towed away from the scene without their permission, or where their vehicles are taken and then towed and stored at excessive daily rates. There is no need for this to happen; motorists have rights and they must enforce these if they are able to,” notes the AA.
The Association says it is important to note that not all tow truck operators are unscrupulous, and that there are more professional, ethical operators out there than those who aren’t. There are accredited service providers who adhere to strict rules and ethics.
It is, says the AA, also important to recognise that tow trucks provide a valuable service to motorists who are stranded on the side of the road due to mechanical breakdowns or as a result of crashes.
“Towing can be costly. If you are not in a financial position to pay a large once-off fee for towing we would advise vehicles owners to explore options which cover these costs,” says the AA.
Among the tips the AA gives to motorists in relation to towing services are:

  • If you are involved in an incident, and are able to do so, contact your insurer first; don’t let someone else contact them on your behalf,
  • “It is your right to choose a tow truck driver, not anyone else’s. If you are incapacitated and only under these circumstances may police or emergency personnel on the scene make a decision on who should tow your vehicle
  • Always check and read any documentation carefully before signing anything,
  • Motorists should be encouraged to use a branded tow operator wherever possible and preferably one that belongs to an association so that there is accountability should there be any problems.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance provider for advice,
  • If your insurance includes cover for towing, contact the emergency number provided with your cover,
  • Get all the relevant information from the tow truck operator before allowing him to move your vehicle. This should include their name, company name, company registration or association registration number, contact number and physical address (and address of their storage yard if it is different to their physical address), and the registration number of the vehicle. If possible, take a photograph of your vehicle with the tow truck before it leaves,
  • Establish upfront, and in writing if possible, how much the service is going to cost (including per kilometre rates), and how much any storage costs will be, especially if you do not have any cover,
  • Remove all valuables from your vehicle before it is towed (remember to check everywhere), and,
  • Contact the AA for assistance, if you are Member.

“It is important for motorists to understand they are in charge of the vehicles, and that they do not have to be intimidated into doing anything they don’t want to do. Being covered through insurance is the best option, but even without it, no-one has the right to take your vehicle without your consent,” advises the AA.