True or false: common towing myths

Those lucky enough to have cars on campus may sometimes find themselves unlucky enough to get parking tickets. Or worse, they may get towed.

The following is a list of myths about parking on campus, according to Jim Hampton, owner of Tatman’s Towing in Urbana.

I can always trust a towing company

Towing companies don’t always have a student’s best interest in mind.

Hampton said if a student finds a tow truck has pulled up to his or her illegally parked vehicle but has not started hooking the car up, the student is legally able to drive away without paying a cent.

But Hampton said sometimes students are told otherwise — and end up paying a “show-up fee” when they don’t have to.

“As long as the car is halfway hooked up or partially hooked up, then the tow truck company has the right to collect a show-up fee. But if all they did is pull up, and you’re getting in your car, tough luck (to the towing company),” Hampton said.

Hampton added that collecting a show-up fee for simply arriving at the scene is illegal, though companies are entitled to the entire amount for towing a vehicle as soon as a car is completely hooked up to the tow truck.

According to Hampton, the only time a company can legally tow cars is by request — from either a police department or manager of an individual parking space. Searching for illegally parked cars is illegal, he said.

Hampton said that for most locations, the company that tows a vehicle is predetermined by cycling between five local companies.

He added that many private parking lots for places like apartment complexes have agreements with specific towing companies. If students know which company should have towed them but realize they were towed by a different company, it’s a sign they were possibly towed illegally.

It’s between the University and I if I have a problem

Campustown contains meters and parking lots owned by the University, the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana. Each has jurisdiction over its own property, so students are not necessarily in trouble with the University when they accumulate parking tickets or illegally park.

If I find my car has disappeared, I should call towing companies until I find the right one

The easiest way to find out what happened to a missing car is to call the police.

All towing companies are required to report any towed vehicles to the police. And if the car was not towed but stolen, the police are still the right people to call.

Which police department a student should call depends on whether Champaign, Urbana or the University owns the area that the student parked in.

Hampton said even if a student doesn’t know who owns his or her illegal parking spot, calling three different police departments is easier than calling the five different towing companies in the area.

I have nothing to lose by telling the tow truck driver I’m mad

Hampton said it’s possible for students to get their cars back cheaper if they are respectful rather than if they show their frustration.

Urbana, Champaign and University are the same

Students should research the driving and parking rules for each governing body, as they vary in sometimes significant ways.

In Urbana, a driver can be ticketed for backing into a parking spot, while doing the same is allowed in Champaign.

Specific rules surrounding the enforcement of meters and specific penalties also vary drastically between the three communities. That’s why students should always read the meter or any nearby street signs when parking.

I can ignore parking tickets

In Champaign, students’ cars can be booted — where a metal clamp disables a vehicle until fines are paid — 30 days after accumulating five unpaid parking citations. The University will boot a car after three outstanding citations, and in Urbana, a student’s drivers license can be suspended and their vehicle towed if they accumulate 10 unpaid citations for a period of 60 days.

While ignoring a single parking ticket is not uncommon, they can quickly add up.

After living off campus for a few months, Katelyn Beavers, senior in engineering, said she has accumulated many parking tickets — and always pays them.

“I might as well just pay them and get it over with than wait and deal with it later,” she said.

Beavers added that she never been towed but frequently forgets to pay meters with her “cash key,” which can be purchased as a substitute for change.

I’m safe if I pay the meter

Parking enforcement sometimes runs license plates to check if a vehicle is on a tow list — even if the vehicle is at a paid meter. However, they do so rarely, according to Shirl Johnson, Champaign parking operations supervisor.

“Now yes, they can just go and run each (license) plate … but a lot of times they don’t have the time to do that, because we have over 1,900 meters and six people,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that most times a vehicle is discovered as being on a tow list either by parking for more than two hours in a three-hour period or by requiring a citation for another reason.

The city is towing me because they want my money

Johnson said the City of Champaign does not go out of its way to tow vehicles. The reason a car is booted is to save the violator money, as paying to have a boot removed is more than $70 cheaper than having a car towed.

According to Johnson, a car will usually be booted rather than towed, unless “it’s parked illegally” or there are “extenuating circumstances.”

Most of the expenses for towing go to the towing company, which cannot legally tow a vehicle without a third-party request. Though specifics vary between districts, a person who gets towed will pay $100 minimum to the towing company, plus the cost of the parking ticket and an administrative fee.