Should Municipalities Contact You Before Towing Your Car?

The citizens of many Canadian cities are all too familiar with what winters look and feel like. We have all read news stories about parked cars being towed away before roads get plowed. We also hear the same towing stories in springtime when road sweeping is underway. As an example, Montreal may tow 5,000 cars during a single snow storm or as many as 30,000 cars over one winter season.

Illegal parking can also result in your vehicle being towed. Recently there was a story in Toronto (read article) where an elderly couple with a disabled parking permit were towed for inadvertently parking on the wrong side of the street.

Having your car towed is a big inconvenience, forcing you to take time out of your busy day to retrieve your car, paying the towing penalty, and possibly seeing some damage done to your car. Overall, if it has happened to you, you know it’s not a wonderful experience.

So should cities be a bit more considerate with citizens and visitors when it comes to car towing? Cities certainly have the responsibility to maintain the streets in a timely and efficient manner and parked cars can be a hindrance. However we suggest that this shouldn’t dissuade cities from trying to contact the car owner and give a last minute warning to move their car rather than just outright towing it.

Cities try to give warnings

To be fair, drivers are warned about parking regulations. Cities install no-parking signs and place warning signs before street work crews move into an area, but how many people will miss seeing these notices? Some cities are using technology by issuing alerts via specific phone apps, however many people don’t have the app or don’t bother to check it. Would a visitor to that city have the city app?

People might question whether the city council cares if your car is towed since there is no cost to the city itself. Ultimately a towed car is your problem. However one would like to think that cities want to live in harmony with their citizens.

Governments are taking action

Governments have generally been getting stricter with the towing industry, targeting predatory towing practices. In 2017 Ontario made changes to the Consumer Protection Act and Ontario Repair & Storage Liens Act put into effect that towing providers must get permission from a consumer (or someone acting on behalf of the consumer) before providing or charging for towing and storage services. The towing operator must disclose, in writing, the operator’s business name, contact information, and the address where the vehicle will be towed. The public generally agree that this is an improvement and a step forward, however the towing operator has no way of contacting the vehicle owner.

Mobile technology is here to help

The Windshieldink mobile app has the solution. This new messaging platform allows car owners to make themselves reachable via their license plate number and provide the pathway of notifying vehicle owners before they are towed, at least those car owners that want to make themselves reachable.

Given that this mobile technology is available, and if there is political will to lessen the burden of having vehicles towed, we could one day reach a point where unnecessary towing can be reduced or eliminated. Of course if a car owner refuses to move their car, then call in the tow trucks.

Originally published at on July 18, 2017.