If you've ever been towed from the scene of an accident, the following may be of interest:
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My daughter was driving north on Route 124 in Gaithersburg shortly after thunderstorms passed through the area. She hit a slick spot on a curve and went off the road. The passenger side of her car struck a tree and was wedged against it.
She instinctively used her cell phone to call for help by dialing #77. The operator at that number dispatched an officer from the Montgomery County police Germantown station.
The officer told her the car would have to be moved, and he called the police towing service. He also said she was going too fast for the conditions and wrote her a $110 ticket. There was no property damage other than to her car. No one was hurt.
The car was towed to a lot in Rockville. The towing company charged me $280 even though they had the car for only 15 hours.
My daughter is covered by my family Amoco auto club road service policy. If she had called them, there would have been no other costs than body repair. Because she called #77, she received a questionable traffic ticket for $110 and an outrageous rip-off of $280 for towing service.
I'm afraid your analysis is correct. It would have been better had your daughter not called #77, but that may be hard to figure out while standing at the side of the road. Your daughter could have called your Amoco road service, and you would have saved several hundred dollars. But who would have known? We're programmed to punch #77 when we need help.
With no injuries and no damage to someone else's property, the police did not have to be called, according to Officer Derek Baliles, a Montgomery County police spokesman. Some insurance companies might ask you for a police report before paying damages, but Montgomery County would not have issued a police report for that type of accident, Baliles said. Whether an officer issues a moving citation in this circumstance is strictly the officer's discretion, he said.
As for the tow, the county contracts with 56 towing companies that are supposed to arrive at the scene within 30 minutes of being summoned. The police department sets a guideline of $15 a day storage and $75 per tow. However, the company sometimes charges more, as in your case, and the courts have held that that's a civil matter between the towing company and party towed. The fact that your daughter signed an "Informed Consent" form, setting the higher rates, is seen by at least one judge as a contract.
"We rely on the integrity of each firm, and for the most part, they comply with our guidelines," said Cpl. Tom Hosinski, county police towing supervisor, who added that he may receive one or two complaints a week. If you have a complaint, write Hosinski at 580 Metropolitan Grove Rd., Gaithersburg, Md. 20878.
Should you have an accident (no injuries, no property damage to others), call your towing service, if you have one, and check with local police to see whether you are required to report your accident.
Dr. Gridlock would like to hear any experiences readers have had with towing from an accident.
Latest in Taxi Fares
Here are the latest recommended taxi fares to various points throughout the Washington area from the three major airports. These are provided by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (Dulles International, Reagan National) and the Maryland Aviation Administration (Baltimore-Washington International). Note some new numbers on the National Airport guide since we last published it.
Hope these numbers will be helpful.
Reagan National Airport
Crystal City Underground, $4
Rosslyn, Alexandria City Hall, $8
Falls Church, $15
Springfield Mall, McLean, $20
Fairfax County Government Center, $26
Fort Belvoir, $27
Dulles Airport, $44
District of Columbia
U.S. Capitol, $8
RFK Stadium, $12
National Zoo, $13
Catholic University, $14
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, $17
Oxon Hill, Suitland, $18
Chevy Chase, District Heights, Hyattsville, $19
Bethesda, College Park, $21
US Airways Arena, Andrews AFB, Holy Cross Hospital, $23
Redskins Stadium, Goddard Space Flight Center, $28
Rockville, Briggs Chaney Plaza, $32
Oriole Park, Baltimore, $72
Dulles International Airport
Manassas Park, $26
National Airport, $45
Mount Vernon, $62
District of Columbia
White House, $41
Capitol Hill, $44
Andrews AFB, $69
BWI Airport, $89
Baltimore-Washington International Airport
Columbia, Laurel, $25-$30
College Park, Takoma Park, $40
Silver Spring, Wheaton, Upper Marlboro, $45-$50
Rockville, Oxon Hill, $54
Lexington Park, $120
National Airport, $54
Tysons Corner, $65-$70
Sterling, Dulles Airport, $80
District of Columbia, $45-$50
Also note that there is an airport fee of $1.75 at National and $2.10 at BWI in addition to the approximate rates provided above.
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column. Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.