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Behind-the-Wheel

What to do over ditched car

We live in a rural area and came home to find a vehicle parked on the road near but not obstructing our driveway. It appears to have broken down. It's been a number of days now and the vehicle is still there waiting to be retrieved by its owners. What is the proper process for reporting an abandoned vehicle if in fact no one does come for it, and if they don't, what would be the suggested route to follow in having it removed?

Whenever you find a suspicious vehicle in your neighbourhood report it to the police. All that is required is the licence plate number; or failing that, the vehicle identification number, where the vehicle is, and how long it has been there. Of course, if you can provide more information I am sure that it will be welcomed as well. Many stolen vehicles are recovered in this fashion.

If you are curious, you can check the VIN yourself to see if the vehicle has been reported stolen or not.

When the vehicle has been left on your rural property for more than 72 hours, the Motor Vehicle Act deems that the owner has given you permission to tow the vehicle and have it stored. When you act in this capacity as the owner's agent you have a lien under the Warehouse Lien Act against the vehicle for expenses advanced or incurred.

If the owner fails to retrieve the vehicle, the towing company has to deal with the lien to dispose of the vehicle and pay the fees. They may be reluctant to do this unless the vehicle has some value.

If you do use this method to remove an unwanted vehicle, it would be wise to inform police of your actions to prevent any misunderstanding. Also, many towing companies will refuse to move the vehicle unless the police are notified first.

If the vehicle has been left on a highway for more than 72 hours, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) may choose to remove it and the person responsible for abandoning it may be required to pay the expense of removal. In the absence of proof to the contrary, the registered owner of the vehicle is considered to be the person who abandoned it. This is another excellent reason for properly documenting the sale of your vehicle.

Both the Motor Vehicle Act and the Transportation Act give the minister and the police the authority to immediately remove a vehicle from the highway if it will interfere with or cause inconvenience to other highway users.

The MOTI has published a six-page guide stating the protocol to be followed for the removal of abandoned vehicles. Although it refers to the Highway Scenic Improvement Act which was repealed on Dec. 31, 2004, it still identifies the responsibilities of the MOTI, the RCMP and the road maintenance contractor.

The Report All Poachers and Pollutors (RAPP) program with the Conservation Officers Service has an online reporting form that may be used for abandoned vehicles.

This column also appears on the DriveSmartBC website.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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