Car towing becomes controversial topic |

Car towing becomes controversial topic

When last week’s snowstorm hit and cars ended up being towed in the Alta Sierra area, nobody should have been surprised, a local California Highway Patrol official said Tuesday.

For several days before the storm hit, forecasters had predicted snow at lower elevations. When the snow did fall and people abandoned their vehicles, they needed to leave them inside the white line marking the road’s shoulder – leaving room for the snowplows to get through.

“It wasn’t like people weren’t aware of what was coming,” CHP spokeswoman Officer Dina Hernandez said.

Yet the issue has stirred readers of The Union.

More than 200 people have responded online to a story published March 1 about the towing. Some commentators are highly critical of the CHP because officers had assured motorists their cars would be on the road the next morning, and they urge those motorists to file formal complaints. Others disagree, with one commentator saying the motorists who got towed should be fined for “being stupid.”

Theodore and Barbara Burt of Grass Valley sent a letter to the CHP commending officers for going “above and beyond.”

“Every year, the same thing happens. It snows, people drive without chains, get stuck, then blame the county or CHP,” the Burts wrote.

CHP officers did tell many motorists to abandon their vehicles because of the poor driving conditions, and they told motorists their vehicles would be there in the morning, Hernandez said.

But public safety officials ordered at least 55 cars towed, the majority of them on Highway 49, Alta Sierra Drive and Lime Kiln Road, later Tuesday night, Hernandez said.

“If you can’t plow a road because of cars (blocking the road), then you have a problem,” Hernandez said.

It was difficult for motorists and CHP officers to find the shoulder on the snowy road, Hernandez said. The cars that were towed were well over the line, according to reports from officers on the scene.

“It’s very overwhelming for officers out there,” Hernandez said. They did a good job considering the hazardous conditions, she added.

That’s little consolation to those who had to pay a $200 impound fee to retrieve their vehicles.

“Most of the time you don’t have to worry about it,” Hernandez said. But freak storms do happen and a lot of people have moved here from areas where there is no snow, she added.

Officers couldn’t direct motorists to abandon their cars in nearby shopping centers because that’s private property and business owners would complain about the influx of vehicles hurting business, Hernandez said.


To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail or call 477-4234.

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