Manhattan Tow Trucks: Can They Pose Additional Danger on Our Local Roads?

When you have an accident or your vehicle stops working—often at the worst possible moment, when you have traveled far from home or cannot get your vehicle to a shop quickly and effectively—you may feel nothing but relief when you see a tow truck pull up by your vehicle. At last, someone who can help get your vehicle to the appropriate location safely.

On the other hand, if you look over and see a tow truck beside you when you’re not waiting for roadside assistance, you may feel a great deal more uncertain about the driver’s presence. Tow trucks occupy a large space on the road, and they can complicate driving for those around. In addition, they may create some unique dangers. While most tow truck drivers will exercise every precaution to protect other drivers on the road, accidents can occur, and when those accidents do occur, they can prove devastating.

The Potential Dangers Posed by Tow Trucks on Manhattan Roads

While tow trucks certainly pose advantages when you end up stuck after a wreck or due to unexpected damage to your vehicle, these trucks can also pose potential hazards on Manhattan roads.

1. Tow trucks have more mass than the average passenger vehicle.

To successfully tow a passenger vehicle, especially if that vehicle sits on the bed of the truck instead of behind it, the tow truck must weigh considerably more than the passenger vehicle. The lightest-weight tow trucks generally weigh an average of 5 to 10 tons. Heavier tow trucks may weigh as much as 75 tons. The size and weight of the tow truck may impact its towing capacity and what vehicles it can rescue.

In an accident with other vehicles on the streets of Manhattan, that heavy weight can pose a substantial danger. Unfortunately, the average passenger vehicle weighs an average of just over 4,000 pounds. Those smaller vehicles may have little protection from the heavy weight that often comes crashing down on them when they have an accident with a tow truck. The greater force exhibited by the large tow truck may mean that the smaller vehicle crumbles under the pressure, potentially leading to serious injuries for the passengers in those vehicles.

Not only can a tow truck’s larger mass cause problems during an accident, but can cause serious challenges for tow truck drivers on the narrow streets of Manhattan. Manhattan’s design and layout planned for much smaller vehicles and considerably less traffic than the borough sees today, which means that Manhattan drivers, particularly drivers of larger vehicles, may have trouble navigating on those tight streets. As a result, drivers may have a higher risk of causing an accident as they try to get around road hazards.

2. Tow trucks can have larger-than-average blind spots.

Most vehicles have blind spots: areas where the driver cannot clearly see the movement of other vehicles in the vicinity. Tow trucks may have larger blind spots than the average vehicle, since large trucks often sit higher on the road and may have less overall visibility.

Worse, tow trucks may have blind spots caused by the vehicles they haul. With another vehicle hooked up to the tow truck, it can increase the size of the truck’s blind spots. Larger vehicles may create larger overall blind spots, which tow truck drivers may not recognize ahead of time.

Blind spots can cause serious issues on the streets of Manhattan, which may have higher-than-average pedestrian traffic. Many people in Manhattan prefer public transportation or walking over using their personal vehicles due to the clogged, often narrow streets.

3. Tow truck drivers work in all kinds of weather (and may actually spend more time on the road during bad weather).

Tow truck drivers often have to head out in dangerous weather conditions. Truckers may need to pull out other drivers that have gotten stuck in heavy snow or drivers who slid off the road in the rain. In dangerous weather, more cars suffer accidents, and tow trucks can prove crucial to clearing the roads and making them safe again.

Unfortunately, that means that tow trucks spend more time out on the road in poor weather conditions, which can increase the risk of an accident. Manhattan sees an average of 47 inches of rain and 25 inches of snow each year. That can mean a lot of time spent pulling cars out of the road after bad weather accidents for the average tow truck driver. Unfortunately, it also means that tow trucks will fill the streets of Manhattan during times when the average driver may already face a higher risk of causing an accident.

4. Tow trucks have many moving parts that require proper placement to keep vehicles attached to them.

Tow trucks come in several different styles, depending on the vehicle that needs a tow and the way that vehicle attaches to the tow truck. Hook and chain tow trucks, which offered some of the earliest solutions for towing, attach the towed vehicle to the tow truck with a hook and chain. While most towing companies have discontinued these trucks due to the damage they can cause to vehicles during the tow, some may still find their way onto the streets of Manhattan. Wheel-lift trucks place a large metal yolk under the vehicle’s drive wheels, then raise those vehicles off the ground. An integrated tow truck may contain both a boom and a wheel lift, while flatbeds can carry vehicles on top of the truck bed.

Regardless of the type of tow truck, however, all require several important components to keep everything in place. Even a minor failure to adhere to every detail can make it much more difficult to attach the vehicle properly and could lead to the vehicle falling off. A vehicle that falls off of a tow truck has no one controlling it, which means that it may careen into traffic, posing a substantial hazard on the crowded streets of Manhattan.

5. Tow truck drivers may not receive adequate training before hitting the streets of Manhattan.

Tow truck drivers often need more than just a standard driver’s license to operate a tow truck legally. Often, tow truck drivers carry a Class A license, which means that the driver may need to undergo more stringent training than the average passenger vehicle driver. However, it takes relatively minimal training to get the initial CDL and get out on the road. Not only that, operating a tow truck safely may require additional training.

Unfortunately, many tow truck drivers do not receive the additional training they need before getting sent out on the road. Frequently, they may have only basic training on how to operate the tow truck, including everything from how to properly secure the towed vehicle to the tow truck to how to navigate safely while hauling another vehicle. Tow truck drivers may also face pressure to complete jobs quickly, even if they do not have the right training to tow a specific class of vehicle or to handle a specific road hazard.

6. Tow truck drivers may need to work during odd hours, which can increase the risk of fatigue.

When you get stuck by the side of the road in the middle of the night or have an accident during your morning commute at the crack of dawn, you need a tow truck driver on the scene as quickly as possible. That means tow truck drivers may find themselves working at all hours, especially during times when the roads may experience greater danger than usual.

Whether tow truck drivers have to work odd shifts in the middle of the night, during the body’s lowest time, or get pulled from bed in the middle of the night because of an emergency that needs immediate attention, drivers may suffer from high levels of fatigue.

Fatigued drivers do not function well behind the wheel. They have a greater likelihood of making mistakes, which can cause serious injuries to everyone around them. Worse, fatigued drivers may have a hard time staying awake behind the wheel and may even nod off. An uncontrolled tow truck can cause serious damage to the other vehicles around it before coming to a stop.

Where Is Your Vehicle Going? An Added Tow Truck Hazard

You generally assume that when you hire a tow truck driver, your vehicle will go exactly where you want it. Unfortunately, some towing companies will enact a scam; instead of taking your vehicle to the location you specified, the tow truck driver may take it to an undisclosed location instead.

This scam has occurred all too commonly throughout Manhattan—and many drivers have struggled to get their vehicles back as the tow bill continues to rise. Many drivers end up fighting to get their vehicles back or facing enormous towing bills, despite following all necessary steps to pay the initial bill and get their vehicles to a body shop or repair facility.

What to Do After an Accident With a Tow Truck

You expect a tow truck to rescue you after an accident, not to cause one. If you do face an accident with a tow truck, however, you may find yourself needing to act fast to protect yourself.

1. Report the accident to Manhattan police.

Do not let the tow truck driver arrange to take your car to an unspecified location or to use the tow truck to take your vehicle to the garage, since the driver could have dishonest intent and that would provide you with no record of where the car ended up. Instead, report the accident and wait for the police to arrive. Seriously consider using another towing service to move your vehicle, unless you can confirm the legitimacy of the tow truck driver and towing company before leaving the scene of the accident.

2. Get immediate medical attention for any injuries.

Never put off medical attention for injuries sustained in any accident, especially an accident caused by someone else. You may think that you suffered no serious injuries, only to later discover that you sustained much more serious injuries than you thought. Not only can the delay in care make it very difficult to treat your injuries—and even worsen those injuries, sometimes leading to chronic complications—but such a delay can leave you struggling to prove exactly when your injuries took place, which can make it difficult for you to later file a truck accident claim.

3. Collect evidence if you can do so without endangering yourself.

Andrew Finkelstein Jacoby & Meyers LLP

Truck Accident Lawyer, Andrew Finkelstein

If you have serious injuries or suffer injuries on a busy street, you may not have the ability to get out of your car and take pictures. However, if possible, take photos of the damage to your vehicle, the tow truck that caused the damage, and the site of the impact. Try to catch a picture of the towing company’s logo or identifying information. You may also want to take photos of the driver’s license and insurance information to make it easier for you to identify that driver later.

4. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If you suffer serious injuries in a tow truck accident, you should retain an attorney to handle your case. An experienced attorney can help make sure that you understand your rights after an accident, including your right to compensation, and assist you as you pursue compensation for the full cost of your injuries. An attorney can also deal with the tow truck driver’s insurance company for you, which can alleviate much of the stress you feel as you manage your claim.

If you suffered serious injuries in a tow truck accident, do not wait to get legal assistance. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.