‘Cheaper than parking at the airport’: Outrage over towing discounts for dangerous B.C. drivers

Outrage over impound breaks for bad B.C. drivers
The association that represents B.C. towing companies estimates tens of thousands of dollars in discounts have been doled out to excessive speeders and even impaired drivers since 2012 due to a loophole in the system, and as Kristen Robinson reports, one family torn apart by a bad driver's deadly decision says the money needs to be repaid.

The fallout has been fast and furious after Global News learned that vehicle owners in B.C. who lose their rides for excessive speeding and even impaired driving, are receiving hefty discounts on towing and storage service fees.

Markita Kaulius, who lost her daughter to a drunk driver in 2011, was appalled to learn of the loophole that allows people whose vehicles have been impounded to be eligible for perks and breaks not available to the rest of us.

“We are subsidizing their bad behaviour,” Kaulius told Global News.

READ MORE: Province to review massive towing discounts given to excessive speeders and impaired drivers

Kaulius’ 22-year-old daughter Kassandra was driving home from a softball game in May 2011 when she was t-boned and killed by a drunk driver in Surrey.

Perks and discounts for excessive speeders and impaired drivers
Perks and discounts for excessive speeders and impaired drivers

“Every single day we live with the loss of our daughter,” Kaulius said. “With the aftermath of someone’s decision to drink and drive and put others at risk.”

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The impaired driver, Natasha Warren, drank a bottle and a half of wine while watching hockey playoffs.

Her van was reportedly travelling at 103 km/hr when she hit Kaulius’ car. Warren was sentenced to three years in prison but ended up being released from custody after serving two years.

READ MORE: B.C. handing out more than 2K licence prohibitions for excessive speeding per year

“There’s no deterrent to drive impaired or dangerously drive and put others on risk with the laws the way they are right now,” said Kaulius.

Dangerous drivers currently get free towing for up to six kilometres and benefit from ICBC storage rates, which are almost 50 per cent lower than what the average driver would pay.

The breaks are an apparent unintended consequence of bulk discounts negotiated by ICBC and then passed on to RoadSafetyBC, the provincial government agency headed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, that works with police and stakeholders to maximize safe and responsible driving.

The CEO of the Automotive Retailers Association (ARA), which represents B.C. towing companies, told Global News the rates originated with ICBC and were justifiably discounted because of the huge amount of business the insurance corporation does with the towing industry.

“But what happened was that RoadSafetyBC harmonized those rates in about 2012, and as a result those are the rates that we charge to people who are towed under RoadSafetyBC,” said Adrian Scovell.

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READ MORE: New data shows ‘shocking’ number of vehicles impounded in B.C. for excessive speeding

“And that ends up getting unintentionally passed on to the drivers of these vehicles.”

B.C. public safety minister Mike Farnworth told Global News he was surprised to learn of the discounts, which have been in place since 2012, and has asked his staff to look into the situation and report back to him.

“Were dealing with tens of thousands in dollars in discounts that have been passed on,” said Scovell.

Scovell says his association’s members, who are on the front lines of fatal crashes, are frustrated by the bargains for bad drivers.

Shocking numbers on excessive speeding in B.C.
Shocking numbers on excessive speeding in B.C.

“They see the deaths, they see the ruined vehicles and the ruined lives and these are people that have got children themselves, so they really don’t appreciate it,” he said.

According to the ARA, it’s apparent some drivers are well aware of the loophole and taking advantage of the discounted storage rates.

“There was actually somebody impounded and we asked well, why did you wait so long to get your vehicle and he said, because it’s cheaper than parking at the airport,” Scovell said.

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READ MORE: VPD impound car caught speeding 92 km/h over limit near elementary school

“So he was out of the country or had to leave and got it when he got back.”

Daily rates at jetSet, the newest parking option at YVR, cost $24. Rates for P2 and P3 in The Parkade, a multi-level covered parking lot located steps from the terminal, are $34 per day while the daily rate for the airport’s Gateway Valet parking will set you back $43.75.

Mitchell’s Towing told Global News that current ICBC storage rates for Zone 1 in North Vancouver are $23.28 per day compared to their normal retail rate of $44 a day, giving owners of impounded vehicles a 47 per cent discount — which beats airport parking prices.

“I think the government should go after these people and charge them the additional rates that most people have to pay,” Kaulius said.

READ MORE: $1,566 in fines for B.C. driver busted for speeding after being let off with a warning

Scovell says towing companies are committed to working with the province should it try to recover any of the discounts in arrears.

“We would be able to go back and supply them and will supply them with any data that they need to make an informed decision,” Scovell said.

“I am confident Minister Farnworth is going to look at it as he’s said.”

“We are rewarding the bad drivers who are putting people at risk on the roads and that needs to stop,” said Kaulius.

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– With files from Amy Judd and Catherine Urquhart.