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Driving You Crazy: How long does it take to remove abandoned vehicles from interstates?

It's a safety issue as they are often close to the travel lanes
Abandoned Car
Posted at 4:44 AM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 09:47:56-04

Steve from Aurora writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Hi Jayson, I have noticed that on the highways, particularly I-225, crashed and/or abandoned vehicles are often left for days without being towed. It seems to me that this is a safety issue as they are often very close to the line between the shoulder and the travel lanes. I wonder if this is a known issue, maybe something to do with towing regulations or contracts? Figured you might have some insight.”

Unfortunately, Steve, removing these vehicles is a process that moves much, much slower than the speed of traffic on I-225.

The procedure to tow wrecked vehicles is different than it is to remove abandoned vehicles.

Officer Elizabeth McGregor from the Aurora Police Department says when they respond to a wreck, the vehicles that are involved in the collision that cannot be driven safely are towed immediately from the area, usually by a private tow company. That way, any cars that appear to have been involved in a crash and are sitting on the side of the road won’t be reinvestigated by an officer.

McGregor said abandoned vehicles on I-225 can be towed after three hours per Aurora Municipal Code 134-146.

“The three-hour clock starts when a police officer physically marks or tags the vehicle, hence the visible tags on the car,” McGregor said.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

Once the three hours are up, tow times vary depending on the tow company’s staffing and call load — generally, 30-60 minutes once an officer calls for the tow. Abandoned vehicles that are blocking part or all of the roadway or are interfering with maintenance operations can be towed immediately, but a police officer has to respond to the scene to make the request, so the timing on that depends on call load and staffing of officers and tow company drivers.

The wait time to tow a car identified by the Colorado State Patrol or by other state agencies is much longer.

When a trooper rolls up on a suspected abandoned vehicle along any interstate, like I-225, or any state highway, they mark it by attaching a bright orange tag on the vehicle. That tag reads, “Pursuant to Colorado law, any motor vehicle left unattended on public property, including any portion of a highway right-of-way, for a period of 48-hours or longer will be deemed abandoned. This vehicle will be towed, at owner expense, if it is not removed by the date and time shown below.”

After 48 hours, a local tow company is contacted, and the vehicle is towed.

Colorado’s Division of Motor Vehicles considers a vehicle abandoned on public property when “left unattended on public property for a period of 48 hours or longer, left unattended on public property for a period longer than any limit prescribed by any local ordinance or stored in an impound lot at the request of a law enforcement agency and not removed from the impound lot within 72 hours after the time the law enforcement agency notifies the owner that the vehicle is available for release.”

In Aurora, any vehicle that is impounded goes to the Aurora Police Department impound yard, and the owner immediately begins to accrue impound fees for each day that the vehicle is there. If the vehicle remains unclaimed for a long period of time, that vehicle can then be sold at a public auction to the highest bidder.

Several years ago, Altitude Law put together a list of towing regulations in most Colorado and Front Range communities. Most of the statutes remain unchanged today, while others have changed a bit, but it still gives a good reference to what the rules are for various cities and counties around the Denver metro area.

Remember, as well, that Aurora police, the Colorado State Patrol and private tow companies are all dealing with the same labor shortage issues that just about every company is dealing with, so they might not be able to respond to abandoned vehicles as quickly as they have in years past.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.