Towing and recovery are slated to be an even bigger industry within the state of Utah in 2015. At the end of 2014, a state law was passed which requires drivers to turn over their vehicles for impoundment immediately if they are caught without insurance. Compared to many other states, Utah has a relatively low number of uninsured drivers on the road. However, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, the man who sponsored the new law, says it is “a worthwhile price for the greater good.” When an uninsured driver and insured driver get into a collision, the uninsured driver usually has very little means to bear the financial burden, should he or she be found liable. |
Since Utah already has low numbers of uninsured drivers on the road (boasting the fourth-lowest rate in 2012 at 5.8 percent), supporters claim the law may push those numbers down even further. Hillyard thinks the average in 2014 was likely around 3 percent, which might make Utah the state with the least uninsured driver offenses.
An Officer’s Discretion
Under the law, police officers can use discretion in regard to seizing the car or not. Exceptions also are written into the law, such as if towing may cause a dangerous situation for the driver/occupants. Public safety concerns trump the law, providing a safeguard for everyone in vehicles. Hillyard says it gives police officers “more of an incentive to impound the car, but it has a lot of protection in there. For example, if it’s an unsafe position or if you’ve got a mom and some little kids there, those kinds of things, it would protect them from (towing in that instance).”
Prior to impounding the car on the spot, police have to cross-check the driver and a state database comprised of uninsured drivers. However, if the driver is adamant that they have insurance, police must make a “reasonable attempt” to confirm such coverage (i.e., a call to the insurance company). While a number of other states consider impounding legal, Utah may be the first state to actually require it.
An Easy Pass
The law was initially passed in March 2014 in the state Senate, unanimously; however it just squeaked by with a 38-31 vote in the House. The majority of opponents are Republican, including Rep. Paul Ray who notes he’s concerned about the uninsured driver database accuracy. “There’s just a lot of ifs, and I’m not sure it’s the role of government to say, ‘We’re going to take your car and impound it if your insurance isn’t paid on it.’”
According to state law, drivers are paid back should their cars be wrongly impounded. It’s estimated these fees will total about $13,000 per year for an average of 25 wrongful impounds each year. In 2014, 25,000 vehicles were impounded for a variety of reasons, but it is unclear if any were an instant impoundment due to lack of insurance.
Should your car be impounded in Utah, remember that the towing and recovery company is a third party. They are required to fulfill a contract with the police department, loan company or other such company, and legally cannot remove a car from a tow truck or stop the towing once it has begun. Following instructions, including appeals, with the original party is what helps drivers who have had their cars towed get them back faster.
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