Towing incidents anger students
September 22nd, 2006
Meg Miller, CT Staff Writer
Nobody likes to come back to an empty parking space where a car used to be, only to find it has been impounded. Due to lack of parking spaces and strictly enforced state towing laws, many Virginia Tech students are finding themselves in this predicament. In both on-campus and off-campus lots and spaces, many students are facing up to over $100 in towing fines because of violations to the Tech parking regulations and Virginia state laws.
Steve Mouras, director of transportation for the Office of Transportation explained the philosophy behind towing.
“We really want to avoid towing because it makes customers hostile, so we only do it when there is a really compelling reason,” he said.
Mouras explained that all laws enforced on Tech’s campus are state laws, and that in most cases, they notify the vehicle owner before they tow.
Mouras added that they did tow a lot of cars on football game days because of the restrictions on certain lots. In a recent e-mail to campus residents, it was stated that 26 students had their cars towed Saturday, Sept. 16 for the Tech vs. Duke game because they remained parked in areas restricted for game day.
The e-mail urged students to familiarize themselves with football game parking restrictions before game days. These restrictions state that all vehicles must be removed from certain lots before 10 p.m. the night before the game.
Other parking restrictions that make vehicles liable to be towed are parking with a stolen parking pass, parking in a handicap space, parking in a place that is a traffic hazard and owing fines of $200 or more.
An even more pressing concern is the issue of towing and parking off-campus. State laws and the town, not Parking Services or the Office of Transportation on campus, regulate off-campus towing.
“Last year, I was parked in Collegiate Suites, in what I thought was a guest space, but when I woke up, my car was gone,” said Jake Hughes, a junior industrial in system engineering major.
Hughes was charged a fine of $100 and had to call the police station to find where his car was towed. They did not notify him before his car was towed.
In another incident, Chris Hazel, a sophomore architecture major, was parked beside a dumpster and had his car towed.
“It was understandable that they would tow my car for being beside a dumpster, but I came outside before the tow truck left the parking lot and was charged $100 for them to lower my car,” he said.
According to state law, if the owner of the vehicle comes to the scene to move the vehicle, the tow order may be cancelled and the person responsible for the vehicle might be required to pay towing costs. However, Section 12-418 of the Blacksburg town code states that if the vehicle has already been hooked up, or is in the process of being hooked up, the tow truck operator cannot charge a fee that exceeds $20.
Hazel also said his roommate’s car had been towed because his vehicle was parked on a side of the road where there is no curb, just grass. His roommate learned the hard way that if the vehicle is parked even slightly in the grass, it is liable to get towed for a fine of up to $150.
Valley Towing administered the two towing incidents described by Hazel.
Valley Towing, formerly named Tek Tow, is one of Blacksburg’s towing companies, and on of the most controversial. According to the Better Business Bureau, of which Valley Towing is not a member, there have been seven complaints against Valley Towing in the last three years.
When contacted, Valley Towing commented that their base price for towing was $50, but it depended on the distance that the tow truck has to travel to retrieve the vehicle and bring it back to the impound lot.
Mouras said that the Virginia Tech Campus uses Campus Exxon for parking violations on campus, not Valley Towing, unless they need backup.
“The company charges what the company charges,” Mouras said. “Virginia Tech doesn’t get any of that money, we just write the tickets. However, we try not to use a company with an exorbitant fee.”
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