There’s plenty of litter along the side of the roads. But sometimes Birmingham’s biggest trash rolls on four wheels. And law enforcement officials say abandoned cars are not only a nuisance, but safety hazards as well.
On a recent morning, Cameron Creighton of Weil Wrecker was dispatched to First Avenue North near East Lake Park to remove an abandoned vehicle from the roadside.
Weil Wrecker handles much of the towing for Birmingham and several other cities in Jefferson County. The company estimates it tows about 100 abandoned cars every month.
But this isn’t just a Birmingham-area problem. A state database of abandoned or unclaimed cars lists vehicles from almost every corner of the state.
Birmingham policeman Roderick Shelby, who was on the scene as Creighton collected the abandoned BMW, says abandoned cars create dangerous situations. This car was almost right in front of a business, he says.
“If a person was trying to go out on the main street, they can’t see the oncoming car,” he says.
The BMW sat on the side of the road for several days. A business owner from nearby called to report the vehicle several times, Shelby says.
The tow truck driver hauled the car to a vehicle storage lot. Owners can reclaim their cars, but if they don’t get them in a couple months, state law allows them to be auctioned.
State Trooper Corporal Steve Smith says law enforcement officers try to remove abandoned vehicles especially quickly from interstates and construction zones. When officers spot a deserted vehicle, they place an orange sticker on the window. That sticker helps officers track how long the car has been abandoned and it tells the owner they must remove their vehicle.
Most of the time, cars on the side of the road are just disabled, Smith says. But, “there are occasions when a car breaks down and they (the owner) decide for whatever reason, ‘I’m done with that car. I’m leaving it here.’”
Cars have to be hauled away on interstates and in construction zones to prevent shoulders and emergency lanes from being blocked, Smith says.
“If there is a wreck out here on 65, and your car is broke down in the emergency lane, then emergency personnel can’t get to where they need to go,” he says. “There’s all kinds of reasons why your car will be towed and it will towed at your expense.”
Towing and daily fees could add up to hundreds of dollars. But Smith says drivers can avoid that extra expense by calling police, state troopers, or the Alabama Department of Transportation when they’re stalled on the side of the road.