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Delaware House passes new driver-friendly towing regulations on party-line vote

Failure to follow parking procedures in City of Wilmington can constitute a parking ticket.
Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media
Failure to follow parking procedures in City of Wilmington can constitute a parking ticket.

A bill to provide better protections for drivers when their vehicle is non-consensually towed passes in the Delaware House.

State Rep. Ed Osienski’s (D-Newark) bill creates a new list of requirements when a company tows a vehicle for illegally parking in Delaware, explaining the regulations would not apply for any law enforcement tows.

Under the bill, towing companies would be required to take a photo documenting the unauthorized parking, publicly display their towing rates which must be reasonable and companies could not charge more than $500 for towing and storage.

Additionally, drop fees could not be more than 50% of the tow fee, and storage facilities must be open or accessible to the public from 8am to 6pm five days a week and make reasonable accommodations to redeem vehicles after-hours.

The $500 cap raised a lot of concerns from Republican representatives, some arguing the set amount does not account for inflation in the coming years and some saying setting a cap at all is governmental overreach into the private sector.

Osienski explains the dollar limit is an attempt to keep towing companies honest based on stories he has heard from constituents.

“This cap also encourages the storage yards to realize that there is a cap, that they will now contact the owner of that car where we’ve heard stories where some car owners were never contacted because the bill could keep on running," Osienski said.

State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) pushed back, saying he would vote for the bill if the price cap was removed.

“We’re going to tell this business that they can only charge $500 no matter what? Folks, this is anti-business, anti-prosperity — this one, I’m talking about this one point," Collins said.

State Rep. Shannon Morris (R-Wyoming) continued to reiterate that other private businesses are not regulated in the same manner the bill proposes.

"I'm just kind of concerned we're opening up a can of worms here of government getting into private businesses and private entities and industries — a whole industry for the state of Delaware — and regulating on what they can charge or when they have to be open or that they have to make reasonable exceptions to somebody that can't come in from 8am-5pm if they want to come in at 10pm at night to pick their stuff up," Shannon said. "I think the government needs to stay out of this, and I think we're going down the wrong hole."

The bill ultimately passed the House along party lines and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.