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New Michigan law bars tow trucks from harassing drivers

User: Kelly Herrin

It’s the kind of service few of us look forward to having the need for – towing services.

And while many are reputable operators, some are known as "wreck chasers" – trolling for business from customers who are stranded in vehicles or at the scene of a car accident.

A new law in Michigan will prohibit tow truck operators from harassing drivers. Legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday will fine tow truck drivers who use aggressive or unethical practices to solicit motorists $1,000. 

Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, sponsored the law. He said traffic problems caused by unsolicited tow trucks often distract emergency workers at accident scenes.

"Some wrecker companies will race out to the scene of an accident and solicit the work. And what that's doing is it's causing traffic problems at the scene of accidents, a confusion for both law enforcement and for those whose own vehicles are involved," said Zorn.

This 2010 reality show “Wreck Chasers” documented how tow trucks practically run over each other to be the first at accident scenes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tow truck drivers often use police scanners to find out where accidents happen and rush to the scene to solicit business.

Dwayne Gill is the legislative liaison for the Michigan State Police. He said officers typically have a list of tow companies who are screened and contracted with the department as resources to help drivers in trouble.

Zorn said unneeded tow trucks could be a distraction for police officers and ambulances in Michigan.

“I have heard this happening in larger, populous areas like Detroit and Wayne County. Places like Monroe County have wrecker policies that the sheriff department follows. But if somebody just runs out to the accident scene, there’s really nothing they can do about it. This law will help local governments stop it,” said Zorn.

David Jerome is the executive secretary of the Michigan Towing Association. He said that this new law will protect the public as well as reputable towers.

“I can’t see a downside to the law. That’s like the implementation of seat belt laws – I’d be an idiot not to wear seat belt. But not wearing seat belts now can be a crime and you’ll get fined,” said Jerome.

The law also bans local governments from collecting a portion of fees from towing services as a condition of contracts.

“That’s just another fee car owners have to pay when they go and pick their car up. That fee will not be included anymore,” said Zorn.

-- Michelle Haun, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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