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No more free tows

Change is coming to SafeClear – it will now cost $50 for a tow on a highway inside the city, instead of it being provided for free.

Passing the cost of towing to motorists is expected to save the city about $3.3 million a year, one of numerous steps the city is considering to close a $130 million budget gap for the year that begins July 1.

“We can no longer afford to pay for this program,” said Councilwoman Sue Lovell, who chairs council’s transportation committee and helped work out the new arrangement with city-contracted towing companies.

The SafeClear program’s operations will not change much beyond the pay-at-the-curb proposal. When a car breaks down in the emergency lane, a city-dispatched truck arrives within six minutes and tows it from the freeway, with or without the driver’s consent. Currently, the city pays the towing company $50 per vehicle cleared from the freeway.

Jeanette Rash, of the SafeClear Management Group, a consortium of towing companies that patrol the freeways and respond to city dispatchers’ calls, said she is trying to arrange direct billing to insurance companies so motorists do not have to pay tow truck drivers up front and later seek reimbursement under their policies.

Considering that ending the program altogether had been on the table, that’s not so bad. There are still issues to be worked out, such as how to deal with uninsured and indigent motorists, and of course Council will weigh in, which is sure to mean some non-trivial amount of disagreement. But one way or another, SafeClear is going to be different.

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2 Comments

  1. That’s a lot of money for people who don’t have it, but still a very reasonable price for a tow. The problem with towing comes when they don’t have the money on them and can’t get their hands on enough to bail their car out of hock and start being charged “storage fees” which add up very quickly. I haven’t looked into the particulars, but I’d be interested to know if there are limits on post-tow procedures/charges – if there are that’s great, but if not, that might be something for City Hall to spend a few minutes on.

  2. […] Back in March, the city announced that it would be removing most of the subsidies for SafeClear as a cost-saving measure. The details have now been finalized and will be ready for Council action in June. Roadside services, such as changing a tire, would cost $30. […]