Proposed bill would allow tow companies to take license plate until paid

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Legislation has been given the green light to move forward at the Capitol that would allow wrecker companies to take a license plate off a crashed car and keep it until either insurance or the owner pay for the tow.

Senate Bill 1743 also prevents the registered owner of the car from getting a new tag until the fine was paid.

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Senator Roland Pederson, (R ) Burlington, said he has been working on the bill for a few years. He said it has support from Service Oklahoma.

“They {wrecker companies} were just not getting paid for their services,” said Pederson. “Some of them were even going out of business because they weren’t getting paid like they should.”

How the bill works, wrecker companies are called by law enforcement to tow away a vehicle after a crash. Insurance or the registered owner must pay for the towing company by a certain time. If they don’t then the company can take the license plate off the car and alert Service Oklahoma to “flag” the owner. By flagging the owner, that person would not be allowed to get the license plate back or get a new tag until the fine is paid.

The measure passed through the Aeronautics and Transportation Committee Tuesday. While Senator Kevin Matthews voted to push the bill through, he said he has some reservations.

“I am concerned when we have an additional way for a penalty for individuals that can’t afford to pay something for them, for their future to be penalized,” said Matthews, (D) Tulsa.

Another proposed concern was what would happen if the car was registered to someone else.

“It would be the person who is actually has the car registered that’s who would be responsible,” said Pederson.

Jim Emo, owner of Quality Towing in Norman, said eight out of the 10 cars that his company tows were registered to someone else, typically the parents of college students going to the University of Oklahoma.

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This bill would mean the parents, or registered owner, would be on the hook for the fine.

One reason for the bill, Pederson said, was because the crashed out cars were not worth much to towing companies. He said they end up losing money when they try to salvage the vehicle.

KFOR asked Emo if that was the case and he said not always, but sometimes.

“I’m getting stuck with 15 to 20 cars a month,” said Emo. “The car wasn’t worth the tow bill, a lot of them. Today the vehicles, generally, are worth the tow bill because of the price of metal.”

The bill will have to be passed through by the House and Senate if it were to become law.

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