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Can drivers turn down the first tow truck on scene?

Jordan July 01, 2014
Close up of a tow truck towing a silver car.
Today’s post comes to us from Elliott Silverstein, Manager of Government Relations here at CAA South Central Ontario. Thanks Elliott!
In the stressful moments that follow a vehicle breakdown or collision, where even the most experienced motorists can feel vulnerable, it’s easy to let stress and anxiety cloud your judgment. If you become involved in one of these situations, being aware of your rights as a motorist is critical. Remember, it always pays to stay informed.

In most cases, when involved in a collision or vehicle breakdown where a tow truck is required, motorists have the right to deny service from tow truck operators who arrive before  their preferred tow provider. However, certain exceptions related to the Highway Traffic Act allow the police to intervene as a matter of public safety:
  1. Section 134.1 allows the police to order the removal of the vehicle or debris from the highway at the cost of the owner or driver. This often happens when there is an additional danger due to the location of the collision or breakdown vehicle(s) and the police need to intervene to improve safety and minimize traffic disruption. In situations like these, police may opt to use the first tow truck on scene to help clear the area. In the event that this takes place, motorists can ask that the tow be to the closest safe location until the tow provider of their choice can be called in; a local mall parking lot, gas station, road with adequate parking space, etc.  You shouldn’t feel pressured to take an out-of-pocket tow further than needed.
  2. Police can also choose the tow operator in instances where the motorist may not be able to make the decision, such as if the driver is impaired, injured or simply unable to make the decision due to a police investigation or execution of a search warrant. Police can also choose the tow provider that will take the impounded vehicle to a storage facility.
Situations that fall under Section 134.1 of the Highway Traffic Act and police directed tows are the exception for motorists. In all other cases, motorists should make the choice and not feel pressured to be towed by a number of providers that may show up at an incident. The foremost concern should be to ensure you as a motorist or any other passengers are safe.  If you don’t feel you are in a safe situation, try to get to safety or secure yourselves and contact police for immediate assistance.

If you find yourself in a vehicle breakdown or collision, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Should CAA Members experience a vehicle breakdown, they should immediately contact CAA. Our call agents can help determine safety issues and advise whether the police need to be contacted. For collisions, motorists should contact their insurance company before signing or authorizing any towing or other work.
  • Insurance companies may also provide instruction as to where the vehicle should be taken. Depending on the municipality, the vehicle can be towed to a collision reporting centre or a defined location of the motorists choosing.
  • Whether you’re involved in a collision or breakdown, motorists are encouraged to advise the tow truck operator where their vehicle is to be dropped off. If the tow truck operator is not working on behalf of CAA, always receive an invoice for any services that lists the vehicle’s origin and destination. In other words, get everything in writing.
  • It is important that motorists discuss how payment will be made with the tow truck operator before any work takes place.
Did you know that CAA Members can get up to 1120km of towing per year with their membership? Click here to find out more and become a Member today!