Collision chasing a citywide epidemic: Ottawa police

Ottawa, Ontario — June 2, 2015 — Ottawa’s problem with unsolicited tow truck drivers arriving at collision sites has reached “epidemic proportions,” police say.

The Ottawa Citizen reports six tow truck drivers were fined $175 apiece at the scene of a May 26 car crash near Kirkwood and Coldrey avenues. Police issued a seventh driver a warning.

According to city bylaw, unless requested by a motorist, city official or highway maintenance official, operators cannot legally park their tow trucks or solicit services within 100 metres of a collision.

Sgt. John Kiss, who heads the Ottawa Police Impounded Vehicles Unit, told the Citizen tow truck drivers are routinely showing up en masse at almost every collision in the city.

“Our officers are faced with these congregating tow trucks that obstruct their investigation, cause a traffic hazard, and we’ve had instances of the tow truck drivers getting into fist fights with each other, screaming at ambulances to move, while the officers are trying to deal with the public safety issue of injured people and keeping the scene safe,” Kiss said in the report.

Kiss suggests licensing the towing industry and increasing fines.

“The fine is $175 the first time and the 100th time,” he says, noting that there are currently no escalating fines in place for repeat offenders.

Aiming to deter competing towers, Ottawa police began staging fake car accidents and handing out fines in fall 2014 — a tactic the force has recently dialed back due to the added dangers staged collisions pose to the public.

Edwin Weber, Sharkey’s Towing and Road Service operator, weighed in on these risks earlier this year.

“I don’t think it’s smart because what they do is they’re enticing tow trucks to start racing through the city,” Weber told 580 CFRA News Talk Radio in a March interview. “If they’re looking to be safe, then why would you have — on purpose — guys racing through the city?”

While agreeing that “tow truck wars” are an issue, Weber says police also need to take a fairer approach at collision sites, citing favouritism towards contracted companies and unfair ticketing practices.

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