Wednesday, July 20

Tag em and Bag em, Jacksonville

Moving to Florida, I noticed that more abandoned cars littered the roadway than other places I'd lived. At first, I assumed this was a result of more tourism, more poverty, or hotter weather. However, after living here for several years, I've come to the conclusion that we've got more abandoned cars because of policy as much as any other factor, and that policy should probably be updated.

I drive the same route every day, just like many of us who commute to work. I've noticed that the same abandoned vehicle sits at the side of the highway for several days, especially if it's just parked and not in obvious distress. However, these parked vehicles represent a major crash hazard if someone needs to swerve into the shoulder. I've even seen some abandoned vehicles on I-95 that didn't fit on the tiny shoulders and ended up in the traffic lane. I've seen plenty of vehicles right at on-ramps or off-ramps, too.

 The policy seems to be to give these vehicles at least two days to be moved before they are towed away, but I'd say that they ought to be removed immediately if there's any chance an accident could be caused. And there's always that chance. The policy should be to give an abandoned vehicles owner until the next rush hour to move it or lose it. If your car breaks down at 7am, then it's got to be gone by 2pm. Or make it a blanket six hours from the time it's tagged.

Even the actual tagging of abandoned vehicles is pretty poorly done around here. Most vehicles that are well off the road or have been in an obvious accident receive an orange tag. A tag lets the rest of us drivers know the situation has been acknowledged by the authorities and we don't need to stop to help out. Every abandoned vehicle should be tagged as a courtesy to those of us who wish to be good Samaritans if needed. When I was in St Johns County on a recent weekend evening, I came across a vehicle that had run off of Highway 1 in the fog. I circled back in order to check it out (parking and exiting my own car in the fog), but no one was in the car. I later called to police department only to find out it was a known abandoned vehicle. That means I endangered myself and other drivers in the fog in order to attempt to help someone who was long gone. Yes, I could have called the sheriff from a safe location a mile away before investigating, but if someone had been injured behind the wheel, it made more sense to stop to see. And I probably wasn't the only passerby to check out the crash scene that had not been tagged to let us know there was nothing to be done. But if I was the only one who stopped, that's kind of sad and scary for those of us who might someday need someone's help. Moving cars as soon as possible, or at least tagging them, makes a lot more sense than what seems to be the current practice in Northeast Florida.

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