Towing the line

I’m a little late to the game, but I found this story interesting:

Ottawa police have taken to staging fake car accidents to drive home a point to tow-truck drivers racing to crash scenes: Stay away or be fined.

Police say trucks competing for towing contracts are breaking a city bylaw when they park within 100 metres of an accident scene and try to solicit business from motorists.

Sgt. John Kiss, who manages the Ottawa police towing contracts, said the tow-truck races have become so aggressive that Ottawa police have staged fake accidents to ticket drivers who police say are chasing collisions.

It’s an interesting strategy. They’re trying to stop tow trucks from driving recklessly by inducing them to drive recklessly. It’s not entrapment, but it is, theoretically, contributing to the problem and putting residents at risk. But, I imagine, it’s a case of short-term risk for long-term safety, so I’m certainly not against it.

And I am most definitely in favour of the police enforcing this law. I have sympathy for the tow truck drivers. It is, by all accounts, a competitive business, and I can understand why they are compelled to take risks in order to get business. But that competition doesn’t absolve them of law-breaking.

I also found this response interesting:

Fadel Ibrahim of Parkdale Towing agrees there’s no place for tow trucks that speed to accidents, only to put the safety of other drivers at risk. However, given that Ottawa police have contracts with companies such as Gervais Towing and Ottawa Metro Towing for cars that are impounded for criminal reasons, he says, to ensure fairness, all tow-truck drivers should be given towing contracts on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Let’s say there’s an accident involving two cars and two tow trucks are on it, if it’s on a first-come, first-served basis you’d never find eight trucks at that one accident,” says Ibrahim.

The very problem is that trucks are racing to the scene of accidents; employing a first-come first-served policy would merely reward those drivers who are the fastest/most dangerous.