As any Tampa resident knows, towing companies show no mercy, especially along S. Howard Avenue (Home to $10 parking and nearly all of Tampa’s alcohol fueled nightlife). However, the Tampa city council is (kind of, finally) trying to fight towing companies to reduce the number of DUIs.
In 2008, the council introduced an ordinance to ban tow trucks from patrolling the parking lots of establishments that serve alcohol overnight. Cars can park without the risk of being towed from 9 pm to noon the following day. The hope was that the statute would encourage bar goers to either walk or taxi home without having to worry about their precious vehicle ending up in the tow lot. Unfortunately, unfriendly parking and towing problems have actually encouraged more drinkers to drive.
Why Isn’t The Tow Ordinance Being Enforced?
The problem lies in the fact that many still don’t know these new ordinances exist and that includes the Public Transportation Council! Towing companies are towing cars that are legally parked and they’re getting away with it.
Last year alone, 270 cars were towed out of the plaza at 533 S. Howard Avenue between the hours of 5 am and 9 am, which is a direct violation of the ordinance. When asked about the ordinance the council stated that they were completely unaware it even existed. How does our government function again?
The ordinance is in fact very real and you can view it in its entirety on TampaGov.net. For those of you that don’t feel like digging through a 35 page PDF of city codes, this is exactly what the ordinance says:
It shall be unlawful for a property owner or lessee of a property owner licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the licensed premises, or an authorized employee thereof, to cause any vehicle parked on such property to be removed by a wrecker operation, from 9:00 pm until noon, unless said property owner, lessee, or authorized employee thereof has signed an order authorizing the removal of a particular vehicle.
It shall be unlawful for a wrecker operation or wrecker driver to tow such vehicle from 9:00 pm until noon, unless in receipt of a signed order. Such order may only be signed prior to vehicle removal and must include: vehicle make, model, color, and license plate number; address of vehicle location; date and time or order; date and time of removal; name of person issuing order and their employer; name of the towing service to which such order is issued; name of driver; and address of storage site. copies of orders shall be maintained for a minimum of three (3) years by both the property owner or lessee, and the towing service and shall be available for inspection by the vehicle owner, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, or any law enforcement agency.
Is The Tampa Council Taking Any Action?
The council is now finally taking action to ensure the public is aware of the ordinance. Businesses have been asked to post new signs indicating that there will be a no-tow policy in effect until noon. The council has also been contacting towing companies to inform them of the ordinance.
Who knows what finally prompted action after eight years. Perhaps the council is just trying to make amends after outlawing Uber and Lyft. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a leap forward in preventing DUI accidents. The enforcement of the ordinance should greatly reduces the temptation of driving after a long night of drinking, which we already know would be a terrible idea. Especially considering your car could testify against you and a new proposed DUI law may deem you automatically guilty until proven innocent.
This is a commendable step forward as long as the word properly gets out to both drivers and tow companies. In the meantime, be on the lookout for the new no-tow signs emerging across Tampa.