Taxpayers on the hook for drunk drivers’ tow fees

By Avi PatelRegina, Saskatchewan — June 26, 2013 — Dozens of Saskatchewan drivers may have been receiving towing services courtesy of taxpayer dollars. Under old regulations, police would regularly call for towing services to impound a vehicle during drunk driving investigations. However, under the new legislation, police are only to use towing services to remove a vehicle when it is determined to be a hazard to other users of the highway. It appears however, that many suspected drunk drivers have had their towing fees funded by taxpayers. The disparity stems from possible miscommunication between the RCMP and Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), the crown corporation that administers the province’s compulsory public auto insurance program, licensing and registration. The dispute specifically centres on section 280 of the province’s Traffic Safety Act that outlines police authority to impound vehicles from the road. The SGI sent a memo to the RCMP to emphasize the new regulations, however 65 vehicles were still towed and funded by taxpayer dollars. “There were legislative changes made to Section 280 on May 15, and there has been a transition period,” says Kelley Brinkworth, Manager of Media Relations at SGI. “We notified law enforcement to make sure they were aware because we didn’t want it to fall back on the customer. Under the new legislation, if a car was improperly impounded, SGI will pay the towing fees until the new regulations are enacted. However in the case of impaired driving, the fees should be charged to the driver. “During this transition phase, until the new regulations are enacted, SGI is looking at the list of vehicles impounded under Section 280,” says Brinkworth. “If SGI determines that a vehicle was improperly impounded under Section 280, and instead should have been impounded as part of the Vehicle Impoundment Program, SGI will ask the police to fill out the correct paperwork and the towing and impoundment fees will be charged back to the vehicle owner.”  

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