Back in the day one of a company ran an ad about being towed referring to the tow truck operators as “Fine young cannibals”. A good deal has changed since then with regulation setting in amongst the operators, yet it is still strange in which the feeding frenzy takes place when they hear of an accident.
Breaking down or being involved in an accident is unpleasant, and even scary, situation for anyone. As a motorist you should be aware be aware of your rights, and maintain control, in such a situation.
The Automobile Association (AA) when approached commented, “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 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 vehicles owners should explore options, which cover these costs with their insurers. In the case of Cross Country Insurance accident and breakdowns are covered even across our borders – www.ccic.co.za
- 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. This only applies if you are able to contact them. If you are incapacitated, police or emergency personnel on the scene will make a decision on who should tow your vehicle,
- Always check and read any documentation carefully before signing anything,
- 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).
It is important for motorists to understand they are in charge of their 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.