In the United Kingdom, car impoundment (also known as car clamping or towing), is a situation every motorist dreads. The experience of finding your car missing from it's original parking space, with the subsequent realisation that it has been towed away by local authorities, can be distressing. Moreover, the process of recovering your car often involves a costly fee and a significant waste of time.
Here are the key reasons why cars might be impounded in the UK!
irst and foremost, it is imperative to note that driving without valid car insurance is not only unlawful but is also one of the most common reasons for car impoundment. Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 empowers police officers to seize vehicles being driven without the necessary insurance cover; in some cases, the vehicle might be impounded immediately, whilst in others, the driver may receive a fixed penalty notice, points on their licence, or a court summons.
The Vehicle Excise Duty, colloquially known as the 'car tax', is a legal obligation for drivers in the UK. This tax, set by the government, must be paid annually for every car in use or parked on a public road. If a driver fails to pay the Vehicle Excise Duty, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has the authority to impound the car and they routinely check the database of taxed cars.
The accumulation of unpaid fines, often from parking violations or traffic offences, can also lead to car impoundment. Local councils or private companies often undertake the responsibility of managing parking regulations, and they have the authority to tow away cars belonging to persistent offenders.
Severe parking violations can also lead to car impoundment. Cars parked in a manner that obstructs traffic, blocks emergency access, or violates clearly marked no-parking zones may be clamped or towed away by local authorities. Repeat offenders are particularly at risk of having their cars impounded.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not just a significant risk to public safety but is also a criminal offence. Cars driven by individuals who are found to be over the legal alcohol limit or under the influence of controlled substances can be seized by police officers and in some cases the car may be impounded until the court hearing.
Stolen cars found by or reported to the police are often impounded as part of the investigative process. The same applies to cars suspected to have been used in the commission of a crime. In these cases, the vehicle will be held until the legal issues have been resolved.
Abandoned vehicles, particularly in urban areas, can become a public nuisance. They take up valuable parking spaces, may pose safety hazards, and can become eyesores if not removed. Consequently, cars that are identified as abandoned, usually after a period of no movement or clear neglect, can be impounded by local authorities.
Whilst each situation might vary slightly, the general process for retrieving an impounded car involves providing proof of identity, evidence of ownership, valid insurance, and proof that the Vehicle Excise Duty has been paid. There will also be towage charges and storage fees for each day the vehicle has been impounded, which can add up quickly.
Unclaimed cars, or cars whose owners fail to pay the necessary fees, are often auctioned off or scrapped by the authorities after a certain period of time. In some cases, the cost of retrieving the vehicle, especially if storage fees have accumulated over time, can exceed the car's value. In these situations, owners may choose to let the car go, but this is an unfortunate last resort.