Snow results in abandoned cars on the road. How do you get your car back?

Little Rock got hit with a nasty mix of snow and ice yesterday. A lot of abandoned cars on the roads and ditches. Thankfully I stayed home yesterday.

How do you get your car back? Is there any point in calling a tow truck? Is it better to let the cops deal with it and arrange the tow? How do you even track down which company towed it or where its stored?

I can only imagine the tow and impound fees.

We got even worse forecast for Monday. Even more abandoned, stuck cars.

During a major snow event, there’s little immediate point in calling a towing company since they’ll be backed up for many hours, if not days. That said, you might as well get on the list now.

Police usually give you several days to claim an “abandoned” vehicles provided it’s not actively blocking traffic. I’m sure you’ve seen cars on the side of the road with a sticker or flag on them where the police marked the date and 72 hours later it’ll be removed. During a major weather event the police are presumably busy enough to not be out flagging the hundred cars so unless you let the car just sit for days it likely won’t be impounded.

So I guess the short answer is that, provided you’re acting on a timely basis and your car wasn’t abandoned in an active traffic lane, you usually wouldn’t have to worry about it being towed/impounded from under you.

I’m from Vermont, where we learn how to drive in foul winter weather.

I spent a couple of years working in DC, and experienced a couple of big snowstorms. DC, I gather gets its snow emergency plan from Tahiti.

I’m not surprised that the locals, with limited experience in winter driving, abandon their cars. What flabbergasts me is that they don’t pull to the side of the road first. This seriously complicates snow removal.

Knock on Wood, I haven’t abandoned a car yet. I keep several bags of cat litter in the trunk and a shovel. I always keep a heavy blanket, gloves, knit hat, and thick wool socks wrapped in a plastic bag just in case I have to sleep in the car.

My biggest fear is getting stuck in a traffic lane or off ramp. Thats not a safe place to work on a car. You can get killed just trying to get cat litter under the wheels.

Northern Indiana here and we have 22 inches of snow the ground. The key is to drive SLOWLY and BE CAREFUL if the weather turns foul.

Some advice: Call the police non-emergency number and see where abandoned vehicles are being towed to. Then find a way to get over to that place (after first trying to call and see what the charge is for the tow and storage) and retrieve your vehicle. Expect to pay cash and expect the amount to be ridiculous (they don’t take credit cards or checks)

If the car is in a rural area, it may still be where you left it. If it hasn’t been vandalized (which will mean a police report) then I would contact a towing service and then expect to wait several hours (at least) for them to arrive and give you a tow.

I stay off of the freeways when the roads are bad. It is easy to get stuck behind people who are abandoning their cars. It is slower to use the surface roads and even cut through the neighborhoods, but it is the path less traveled during snow emergencies.

My personal vehicle is a Jeep Wrangler, and my work truck is a big Dodge 4x4, so I don’t worry too much about getting stuck.

Under Admiralty Law your abandoned car is derelict and can be claimed by whichever brave soul salvages it. You may say that Admiralty Law doesn’t apply on dry land, but then why do our courts’ flags have gold fringe? Huh? Answer me that!

As in most cases, the answer is “it depends”. I would not depend on the kindness of tow-truck owners to discover who I am and contact me. They charge not only towing but storage fees.

It is not unknown for people to find they owe more than the value of the care when they finally find out it.

I don’t think this is true in any state. The tow truck company has to have some kind of contract with the city / state / highway department.

Hah! Who said anything about a towing company or some phony contract with a political body whose authority I don’t recognize? By my Right of Salvage I, a Freeman on the Land, can claim any derelict hulk I can get unstuck. And as I am a FotL I have a YouTube video to support my claims, sheeple!

Or is it too early for joke responses?

But they do want you to find them eventually. Just expect to stay on the phone for an hour or two, and make sure you have access to enough cash, not checks or credit cards, because they like to be especially evil like that.

Also northern Indiana here. SOME places are just 22 inches. Some of us have more than that. :stuck_out_tongue:

^ This.

Also, my idiot neighbors, your 4 wheel drive vehicle is not magic. That is why you seem them in ditches and upside down during snowy weather. SLOW DOWN. Remember that not everyone else on the road has 4WD, or a high wheel base.

Most important - 4WD does NOT decrease your stopping distance or work on black ice.

Initially, post-emergency clean up the police seem to simply move the vehicles in “active” lanes off to the shoulder to get traffic moving again, then worry about towing them to a yard. If you move quick enough you can reclaim your car from the roadside, otherwise, you contact the police and engage in a treasure hunt if they’re utilizing more than one lot or tow service.


We need a “dry” smilie.

In MO, if the police tow a car without the knowledge or consent of the owner, they are required to enter that information in to a state-wide database.

So hypothetically (if everyone does their job) you should be able to call any law enforcement agency and find out where your vehicle was taken.

I would say that you are trying to stop my favorite winter entertainment of laughing at them, except people like that won’t listen and will continue to turn into driveways by driving over the 3-foot pile the plow left in the median strip. Four-wheel-drive does no good if you are balanced on the pile with no tires in contact with anything but air.

I use the winkie ( :wink: ) for that but after 14 years I was tired of it and thought I’d let how obviously over the top my comment was speak for myself. I found you ignore the General Application of Poe’s Law at your peril.

Also- if you’re in a 4x4 and still manage to get stuck, you’re really stuck.

Nor any kind of ice!

Amen. So stay home if possible. If it is not possible, go slow and don’t do dumb stuff.

After the Blizzard of '78 (greater Boston) the major highways were parking lots. 1000’s of abandoned cars were towed from folks who got stuck during rush hour when the roads essentially shut down. It took days to get things unstuck. I believe they towed cars to big plowed out parking lots and owners had to figure out where their cars went and track them down.

Out here on the edge of the Great Northern Prairie a really good snow storm will result in the state police putting a towing ban into effect. The ban may be imposed for two or three days until the road crews can get the major roads into passable shape. In the meantime you call your local garage, tell them where your car is, get a set of keys to them and sit on your hands until Marvin the tow truck driver calls to tell you he has your car at the shop.

Let me second the comment on four wheel drive – when you are stuck with a 4x4 you are good and stuck-tow truck stuck.

Here in Michigan, the winter of 2013-2014 is officially The Snowiest Winter on Record [sup]TM[/sup], even if we don’t get another flake of snow. It always amuses me when I hear reports of places like DC or Atlanta, where 1/2" of snow causes civilization to collapse.

Abandoned cars really aren’t a problem around here. You’ll see the occasional one on the side of the freeway, usually with the orange “Move this shitheap” sticker slapped on it, but I’ve never seen any sort of large-scale abandonment. Really, you’re far more likely to get stuck on an unplowed subdivision street, than you are on any main road or freeway.

It’s all about the best ROI. There has not been a lot of reason for the good people of Atlanta to learn to drive on ice.

In fact, there is not a lot of reason for most people to learn to drive on ice; stay at home. If you’re at work, stay at work. Give the professionals a chance to smoother the roads in auto destroying sand and salt.

I have one tip, though. Keep a change of clothes and a toothbrush in your car.
And a bar of chocolate. And a cup, candle, wooden matches, a tea bag, and a nip. Brandy or whiskey.