Towing: The unjust, unnecessary vulture of Houston
Students are well aware of the danger of towing — one mistake and a person’s car will be gone when they return, dragged off by strangers of the Paleolithic persuasion.
In order to see the car again, that person must pay the requisite fine, which is often expensive; however, it isn’t paying the fine that is the problem. It’s the often unnecessary circumstances under which vehicles are towed that is problematic.
With UH having such a large commuter population, losing one’s only means of transportation can have a devastating impact. This is especially frustrating when a car is towed from a parking space in a half empty lot, and cases of similar triviality.
There are many valid instances in which there is a valid reason to deliver a ticket. UH Parking and Transportation Services Director Robert Browand said vehicles are subject to be towed when they violate fire zones, reserved spaces, disabled parking or the parking permits are lost, stolen or altered.
However, there are times when tow truck operators somehow unlock a person’s car and rummage around inside it.
“This is done to avoid damage to vehicles,” Browand said. “For example, if the vehicle is a manual shift, the wrecker driver needs to put the car in neutral before it can be towed.”
This is all well and good, but with the absence of permission, situations like these begin to feel dishonest and illegal.
Browand’s examples of towing are understandable, as they are incidents in which safety is threatened. In these cases, the towing serves the purpose of removing the obstruction so that safety is secure once more; however, there are many cases in which there is no such obstruction is there.
It seems like many miscreants have found the towing game an easy one to use for their advantage — instances of illegal towing pop up in the news and in conversation.
It is common knowledge that tow truck drivers race to the scene of an automobile accident. This not only causes anxiety for surrounding bystanders who might be stuck in traffic as the tow trucks hurtle by, but it increases the threat of more physical harm.
Towing seems to increase the amount of negative situations, rather than the proposed goal of decreasing them. However, the towing industry doesn’t have to be this way.
According to ibisworld.com, there are 8,465 tow truck companies in the U.S. and 52,716 jobs spread out across these companies. Jobs are a good thing, especially as the economy slowly licks its wounds and rises from the dust.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Houston officials are making plans to ease congestion by “reviving and expanding a successful freeway-clearing program.” This plan would require tow trucks to quickly remove any vehicle that is broken down on travel lanes or freeway shoulders without the drivers having to pay a fee. Instead, the towing companies would be paid by transportation officials for the cost of the service.
Towing should be used only for these situations in which the towing of a car will lead to the safety of others. This includes removing cars from fire zones, removing involved cars from the scene of an accident and towing a car for someone after it broke down.
The reasons for towing a car in a parking space that wasn’t being used doesn’t make sense. Monetary gain is the only true reason — and it’s a crooked one at that.
“When you say congestion, I think traffic jams, long lines (and) standing stationary for long periods,” Browand said. “We do not tow to alleviate any of those. I would say we tow for compliance.”
The snatching and holding of a person’s car until mandatory funds are paid doesn’t really sound like the best way to instill compliance of the law within people. Proof that the law is vital to the safe and efficient running of a campus, city or country seems like a better route to take.
“The charge for a towed vehicle is $96.25. The money goes to Parking and Transportation Services and is used to fund parking services, which includes parking enforcement,” Browand said.
The towing of vehicles pays the wage of those towing the vehicles. Instead of violating the privacy of people’s property to keep the towing market going, divert the skills and employees towards helping rather than hurting.
If someone breaks the law, give them a fine, but people shouldn’t be treated as children for a mistake. Those involved in the towing of cars should put away their wallets, wipe away that drool and act as humans towards those they take from, rather than as mongers of discontent.
If it’s anything for a buck, then society is in freefall.
Capitalism can only be healthy in a country of honor, integrity and goodwill. Though it may sound like a Hallmark card — albeit a strange one at that — the fact is a good one. It is also a large one, as everything in this nation, all of the debates, are connected like links in a chain.
Just look at the minute instances, the individual situations and make the choice to be a good person.
Opinion columnist Henry Sturm is a journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]