A panel tasked with addressing Douglas County’s towing policies plans to present a proposal to the Douglas County Commission at the June 13 commission meeting, said Jim Flory, a panel member and Douglas County Commissioner.
The panel was formed in April after local residents, towing company owners and the Douglas County district attorney urged the commission to do something about the over-the-top prices some tow companies are charging motorists.
The panel has met three times, examining the county’s nonpreference towing policy.
At a scene of an accident, motorists can choose whatever towing company they want to haul their vehicle away. But if the owner doesn’t have a preference, the county’s emergency dispatch will choose a company based on a rotating list of about 10 different towing companies.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported about one Douglas County resident who paid $1,110 for a minivan to be towed six miles after an accident.
Legally, the district attorney’s office is restricted from pursuing consumer protection charges, and the 1995 federal Motor Carrier Act prohibits governments from putting limits on the price, route or service of towing companies.
But Flory said the panel, which includes representatives from the city, police department, sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office, has been looking at other municipalities that have addressed similar issues.
One option would be to follow the example of the Wichita Police Department, which hands out a pricing sheet to help motorists choose which towing company they want to use.
Law enforcement could also treat every tow from an accident as one where the customer doesn’t have a preference and then use towing companies that have entered into a contract with the county. That contract could include a set pricing agreement. This is the method being used by Lenexa and Overland Park.
“I sure hope we can come up with something that’s fair and consistent,” Flory said.